...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Bowmore The Devil's Casks, Release III

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

My memories of pre-parenthood life are either slippery, fading or false, but I remember very clearly the release of the first batch of The Devil's Casks back in 2013. All the bloggers were rushing to review it, and I was in my #SherrySux phase. That had to have been the first and last time a non-ancient official Bowmore release lit up whisky geekdom.

Both Release I and II came from first-fill unspecified sherry casks, and were 10 years old. The second batch didn't receive as much digital ink in 2014 but it did sell through swiftly. Release III arrived right in the middle of the NAS Age, in 2015. Though it did indeed drop its age statement, it gained this description on its label, "A marriage of first fill Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks."

Though I exited my #SherrySux phase more than a half decade ago, I have never tried any of the Devil's Casks releases until right now. So I enter this experience with a comfy lack of perspective.

I filtered the devil out of (or into) this pic

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Series: The Devil's Casks
Age: probably less than 10 years old
Maturation: first fill Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks
Release: III (2015)
Outturn: "Limited"
Alcohol by Volume: 56.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? Maybe
(from a bottle split)


The nose wallops. First up: seaweed, tar, burnt plastic and cherry jam. Then orange oil, black licorice and a whiff of steel wool. All those elements feel well-married once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv, possibly even better than at full strength, at first. Gradually the smoke recedes and the sugary notes — now bolstered by honey — move forward.

The palate begins with lots of heat, wood smoke, raisins and cassis. Burlap and charcoal appear by the third sip, followed by a ripple of cayenne pepper. It gets earthier with time. At 46%abv, the smoke moves to the fore, unlike the nose. A bit of an industrial note shows up too. There's also more bitterness, which is partially cask driven, but it kind of works with the overall violence.

It finishes very peppery (think pink peppercorns and cayenne), with a mix of coal smoke and cassis. Some mint leaf and bitterness, too. Eventually it's all smoke. The peat and casks get dirtier when the whisky's at 46%abv. Maybe a bit of orange zest around the edges.


Bowmore went for power over nuance here. Subtlety and complexity have been traded in for BOOM. In fact this could have been an interesting competitor to contemporary Ardbeg Uigeadail, had Bowmore made this an annual release.

But there was no Release IV, which is kind of a shame. Yeah, the distillery released an "Inspired by the Devil’s Casks" thingamabob for a couple of years, but that was diluted. A regular thunderous sherry cask release would have only helped their official range. Extra-dark cask-driven whiskies are all the rage with the newbs nowadays (or always?), so The Devil's Casks would continue to separate people from their money. Plus Bowmore had the sexy name all queued up.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - no, you really don't want to know
Rating - 86