...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Bowmore 18 year old Manzanilla Cask, The Vintner's Trilogy

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

Bowmore's The Vintner's Trilogy was an interesting secondary maturation experiment started before the single malt market got hot. All three whiskies spent their first 13 years (why 13?) in bourbon barrels before getting re-casked into grapey casks. The 27 year old, released in 2018, spent 14 years in port casks, and I sincerely hope no '80s distillate made its way into that parcel. The 26 year old, released in 2017, may have been distilled around the same time as the 27, and had a second 13 year experience in French wine barriques. The baby of the bunch was today's 18 year old, which spent five years in Manzanilla casks.

More things:

1. I don't know its actual distillation vintage, but basic math tells me 1999-ish.
2. This is the only one of the trio I wanted to try.
3. This is the only one of the trio I was able to source.

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: at least 18 years
Bottled: 2017
Maturation: 13 years in bourbon barrels + 5 years in Manzanilla casks
Outturn: ?????
Alcohol by Volume: 52.5%
(from a bottle split)


The nose begins well, with pistachios, walnuts and green plums up front, brown sugar and dried apricots in the back. Maybe some anise-loaded digestif as well. It reads more metallic than smoky. Once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv, the brown sugar and fruit move forward, while the nuts back off a smidge. Still, not much peat to be found.

The palate reads much sweeter than Manzanilla. Candied pecans, mint candy and ginger beer start things off. A light, dusty smoke appears next, followed by hints of toffee and toasted oak. At 46%abv, it's all almond brittle, lemons and vanilla bean.

It finishes with lemon and ginger sodas, toasted oak, woodier smoke and marzipan. When diluted to 46%abv, it matches the reduced palate with a hint of ash at the tail.


Two things were immediately apparent with this Bowmore. Firstly, it was a very easy (though simple) drinker. Secondly, it may be the least peaty Bowmore I've ever tried. The palate was a bit too sweet for my lips, which is weird because Manzanilla ain't no sweetie. Perhaps the casks were heavily charred? The nose was much more interesting and complex, and left me wishing that palate had matched it better. I have a feeling those casks buried some of this whisky's character, including its Islay heart.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $127.99 back in 2017
Rating - 84

Monday, November 29, 2021

Bowmore 15 year old 2001 Old Particular, cask DL 11658 for K&L Wine Merchants

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

After two great sherry cask 2001 Bowmores, I now present a 2001 Bowmore from a bourbon cask. Though I wish I could do another half dozen of these 2001s, this will indeed be the last one for this cluster. It's another K&L exclusive, bottled by the other half of the Laing family, and it rumbles in at 58.5%abv. I'm game.

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Particular
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 15 years (October 2001 - April 2017)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Cask #: DL 11658
Outturn: 185 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.5%
(from a bottle split)

Note: Because of the multiple dilutions, these notes will be listed via my old school method. 


Whew, the nose comes in raw and vegetal, with lots of grass and weed (ha!). Grain, hot coals and a whiff of citronella candle follow next. It picks up some mild beach and butterscotch notes with time.

The palate begins hot, ashy and bitter. And there's lots of grass and burlap. Meanwhile, lychee and kiwi juices float beneath it all.

Oof, super bitter finish too. Wormwood, lemongrass, eucalyptus and ash. The fruit goes bitterer as well.


A clearer, richer peat enters the nose, followed by oats, citronella candles and ganja. Hints of tree bark and vanilla bean stay in the background.

The palate reads more pulled together. Less bitter, more zesty tart citrus (or tart citrus zest?). Mild peat and cinnamon syrup fill in the midground.

It finishes with lemon candy, smoke and a hint of lychee.


The nose shifts back to a rawer style of grains, grasses, kiln and peanuts.

The palate reads very faint for 46%abv, with mild notes of citrus, pepper, lychee, toasted oak and vanilla.

Tarter and bitterer than the palate, the finish still holds onto some vanilla and lemon.


My nose and palate prefer this at 50%abv. It still reads about half its age, but it's a better focused winter pour at that strength. Though some vanilla snuck into the whisky, the barrel still feels multi-refill-ish. That's no sin, but the other five 2001 Bowmores (three of which were K&L's) I've reviewed here were all pretty damned good. This is merely, "yeah it's good for a couple drinks." I consumed my two pours, and now I'm going to assign a number to a fluid that people worked hard to produce.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $89.99 back in 2017
Rating - 83

Friday, November 26, 2021

Bowmore 14 year old 2001 Hepburn's Choice for K&L Wine Merchants

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

As you can see in the pic below, this is one of those "refill butts" that produced a whisky darker than many first-fill sherry butts. It's magic, I guess. This whisky has the tough job of following Wednesday's excellent sherry cask Maltbarn release from the same vintage. Good luck, whisky!

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Hepburn's Choice
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 14 years (2001 - 2016)
Maturation: refill butt
Outturn: 420 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.4%
(from a bottle split)


The nose shows more salt and minerals than actual peat. Plenty of fresh sage too. But it's the blend of blueberry jam, clover honey, demerara syrup and orange peel that tends to dominate. It gets funkier and peatier once reduced to 46%abv. Its mix of ocean side and boat dock reads like Port Ellen Lite, which is not the worst thing. Mild notes of baked apples and toasted oak provide some depth.

The palate begins very herbal with lots of fresh sage and rosemary, with strawberry jam and honey sitting in the background. It takes 20-30 minutes for the peat to show up, arriving then as wood smoke. A hint of bitterness appears with time, then improves once the whisky is diluted to 46%abv. It's still plenty sweet, but balanced by lots of salt and heavier smoke.

Curiously, the peat appears first in the finish, all ash and kiln. It has the palate's strawberry jam and a pinch of tannin. At 46%abv, the whisky finishes saltier and less sweet, with sage smudge in the background.


Another very good 2001 Bowmore, though this one has its own style, and improves significantly with air and dilution. This would have been a fun bottle to have. 60mL changed so much in a Glencairn in one hour, who knows how it would have transformed in a bottle over a few months. Trying to track the characteristics of all these Bowmores will likely turn out to be foolish, but Foolish is my middle name. Or at least I think that's what the F stands for.

One more 2001 Bowmore on Monday...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $82.99 back in 2016/2017
Rating - 88 (with water)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Bowmore 11 year old 2001 Maltbarn, No. 09

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

According to my records, I tried this whisky already and gave it a score of 86. But as you know, if something isn't shared publicly then it never happened. THANKFULLY, Mr. Opinions shared a sample of the bottle he opened for his recent twenty-first birthday (congrats, Kiddo!). He liked the whisky way more than 91-points-worth. So it's time to find out how wrong I was, publicly.

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Maltbarn
Age: 11 years old (2001 - 2012)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask numberNo. 09
Outturn: 175 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.6%
(thank you to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)


The nose starts out with seaweedy peat, candied pecans and nutmeg, while nectarines and green plums float through the background. Its seaweed character strengthens with time, while new notes of sandalwood and manuka honey arise. Once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv, the peat and fruit (key limes and yuzu) expand, with hints of iodine and band-aids lingering in the back.

The palate begins a bit sweeter than expected, loaded with clover honey. The sweetness recedes into a mix of coastal peat, industrial smoke, cayenne pepper and limes. At 46%abv it's full of ultra tart citrus and salty peat, and just a little bit of dates.

It finishes with a subtle honeyed pastry note, limes, coal smoke and ocean brine. The coal smoke remains at 46%abv, while clementines replace the limes.


This is indeed great whisky, and it makes me miss my retired bottle of 2001 Bowmore from Cadenhead. They're different whiskies but both of high quality. This Bowmore's sherry cask had very little influence on the whisky, which works in its favor, letting the Bowmore goodness thrive. I hope more of this cluster's numerous sherry casks play as nicely. It'd be a shame to cover up this style.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 89

Monday, November 22, 2021

Bowmore 10 year old 2002 AD Rattray, cask 20102

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

Ah, look at the color of that whisky below! 💛 That hue announces, "This is the perfect place to start the main part of the Bowmore Cluster." In so many words. And it marks a good contrast to Friday's Bowmore.

I'm also a really big fan of AD Rattray's Bowmore casks, and more of their Bowmores will appear in this cluster. Cask 20102 interests me because it has received a handful of Whiskybase scores that are lower than I'd expect for a Rattray Bowmore. When I first started this blog, I found AD Rattray (aka A. Dewar Rattray) to be one of the most reliable indie bottlers. That feeling has been reversed over the past four years. So, could they have messed up a Bowmore?!?!?!

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: A.D. Rattray
Series: Spirits of the Sea
Exclusive to: Ambrosius Whisky Club
Age: 10 years old (March 2002 - August 2012)
Maturation: ???
Cask number: 20102
Outturn: 116 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 60.7%
(from a purchased sample)


The nose takes a while to wake up. The phenolics register first: machine shop, mild coastal peat and next-day joint ash. Confectioner's sugar, angel food cake and a hint of vanilla appear later. We get even closer to the spirit, once the abv is dropped to 46%, with oats, shredded wheat, mild peat and smoked salmon.

Closer to new make here on the palate. It starts with pears, grass, grassy peat and a tiny bit of sweetness. It's plenty tart (lots of limes), and gains a salty coastal note with time. Sweet apples, green grapes and mint appear at 46%abv. The grassy, leafy peat note builds gradually.

It finishes sweet, tart and mildly peaty, becoming more metallic and briny in later sips. Sweet pears, tart apples and salty peat arrive when the whisky is diluted to 46%abv.


Unless surprises await later on down the cluster, this 2002 will be the closest I'll ever get to trying Bowmore's new make. So I like it much more than did the Whiskybase members. Unlike so many current single-digit-age single malts, this is a whisky I'd actually want to consume semi-regularly. One could enjoy it at the beach, in the forest, in the shower -- he says, pretending like he drinks anywhere other than on The Whisky Chair. The whisky color told the truth, and Rattray didn't screw this one up.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

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

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Bowmore 17 year old (bottled ~2007)

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

2007 appears to have been the end of the road for Bowmore's official 17 year old, as it was replaced by the 18yo that same year. The 17yo seems to have had broad batch variation, with Serge giving the 1995 a score of 84, and the 2000 edition a 65. The LAWS dudes rated it everywhere from F to B+. Could the Hatey Eighties be the culprit?

With this particular bottling, with the then-new label style, likely occurring in early 2007, there may be plenty of '80s spirit in the bottle. But using The Maths, I calculate 1990 being present in the mix. I've found neither soap nor perfume in the 1990 Bowmores I've tried. So perhaps it'll be better than yesterday's 1982?

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: at least 17 years
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Caramel Colorant? Yes, it is very orange
(from a bottle split)


The nose ping-pongs all over the place. Charred beef, Worcestershire sauce, roses, weed, white chocolate, brown butter, and a hell of an alcohol burn for 43%abv. It does pick up a cleaner coastal / seaweed note after 45 minutes.

The palate is......Ash and violet liqueur. Apple cider vinegar, lemon candy and notebook paper. At the same time the nose improves, the palate descends into chemicals, metals and burnt hair.

It finishes even ashier than the palate. The vinegar note is more generic white than apple cider. If the bitter metallic foreground and saccharine midground weren't bad enough, there's some dish detergent in the background.


Was this just the dregs in the bottom of the 17yo vat? I can't picture any blender with tastebuds saying, "Yeah that's exactly what we're going for," after sipping this stuff. There's no through line, no cohesion, no thought in the whisky. It's just a variety of reject casks dumped into a dirty bin, and suck siphoned into bottles that were laying around, because money. I hope this is the worst of the cluster.

Availability - No
Pricing - No
Rating - 67