...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Single Malt Report: Bowmore, on a boat and in a glass

I'm going to be drinking Bowmore on a yacht this Saturday via "Sail the Pacific with Bowmore".  It's fair to say that I'm reasonably stoked about this.  I encourage folks to snap up this deal while it's around.

Normally, I don't like paying for whisky tastings.  I resisted the annual Peatin' Meetin' due to the price tag, but in hindsight I wish I'd gone.  I'll be saving up for it next year.

When I saw the $150 price on the Sail the Pacific experience, I laughed aloud.  But then I saw the deal in the above link for $65 and bought it promptly.  A glass of Bowmore's 25 year at a bar would be over $80 alone.  Glasses of all five expressions would be at least $150.  Of course, I'm not anticipating full pours but I probably will never have another opportunity to try their 18yr and 25yr.

I'm a very big fan of Bowmore.  I've already reported on four of their whiskies.  I love their limited release Tempest and their 1994 Signatory (16yr) may be my favorite open bottle.

I will be reporting back about the booze cruise.  Until then, a new report on something that won't be on the cruise....

Bowmore 7 year old 2002 (Murray McDavid)

Before I begin this report, I must file the following DISCLAIMERs:

1.  Bowmore is one of my favorite distilleries.  (see: above booze cruise)  But this was not released by Bowmore, it was released by Murray McDavid.

2.  Murray McDavid is a well-regarded independent bottler.

3.  Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram is the best way purchase whisky samples.  (I highly recommend it and will be reporting on this setup next month.)

Okay, reporting recommences......now.

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottler: Murray McDavid
Age: 7 years (2002-2009)
Matured: Bourbon
Finish: Premier Cru Bordeaux (Château Latour)
Limited Run: 1,700
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

I was pleased as punch to see this dram arrive in my most recent purchase from Master of Malt.  I wanted to try a very young whisky -- there are no official bottling single malts for sale in the US with an age statement under eight years -- since they're known to be particularly wild and unsubtle.  And this whisky looked particularly curious, fully aged in bourbon barrels then finished in Bordeaux casks.

How exactly would this work out flavorwise?  Whisky, bourbon, and Bordeaux.  I like them all.  Though I like peanut butter, mayonnaise, and yellowtail sushi and I'm in no hurry to throw them in a blender and slurp that down.

It could be brilliant, but I was taking chances here.  That's why I bought a 30mL sample and not a 700mL bottle.  I took a sip of a separate great Bowmore to get the tastebuds into the right mode.  Then I broke out this 7 year old dram.  I let it breathe for ten minutes.

My wife and I were was watching What Not To Wear, but I left the room so that I could focus...

First I'll try it neat.  A unique color.  Think apple juice with some reds and browns mixed in.  Give it a sniff.  Wow, alcohol.  Maybe sweet wine.  Another sniff.  What is that?  Really, what is that smell?  Another sniff.  I know this.  It's...

Bourbon vomit.

And burnt plastic.  And more B.O. than peat.

Ooooookay.  Should I call poison control before I drink this?  Well, sometimes the nose and the palate don't match up.  So I'll give it a sip.

Texture?  Thick.  Palate?

Dear god.  It tastes like pimples.

Pimples and open wounds.  Rotten cream.  PVC plastic.  Flesh.  F**k, gah.  Mlech.  The finish is hot, bitter, ammonia.

F**k.  Some water on it please.  Let's reduce it to 35% ABV.  It's not clouding, but they say it's not chillfiltered.  I'll cautiously sniff.

There's the bordeaux at the front of the nose, better than before.  Very sugary.  But still musty.  Human musty.  Here goes a drink...

Worms.  This must be what worms taste like.  Worms f**king drowned in bourbon.

The cooler, drier finish switches to overripe tropical fruits.

I sit for a minute considering my wellbeing.  And I consider that Bowmore might want to take their name off of this bottling.  Murray McDavid used Bowmore distillate, but the spirit has been suffocated in bourbon, wine, and wood.

FYI, I lived 'till morning.  I'm starting to understand the great Serge Valentin's qualms with what he terms "wineskies".  I like the taste of whisky, that's why I buy whisky.  Special wood finishes can add complexity and incredible flavor, but sometimes things don't exactly congeal and the result is something that may no longer be whisky.

The distilleries like Glenmorangie, Macallan, and Bowmore experiment with these sorts of things in their labs.  They release what works and dump what doesn't (or sell it for blends).  The public doesn't get to taste the flubs in order to keep the brand in good shape.  It's possible that the independent bottlers don't have that luxury to dispatch with the ill-conceived experiments.

This was so wretched that I will hesitate from buying any of Murray McDavid's fancy finishes in the future.  I don't like pimples on my palate.

Price - Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
Rating - 50


  1. Hum... this makes me very suspicious of the 8 YO MMD Bowmore that Hi-Time has in stock. I had been tempted before, but this makes it sound like a big risk.

    1. I've seen it at the store. The price is what stands for "reasonable" in the present market. (Of course, Matusalem's Gran Reserva is less than half the price there, but that's another story.)

      In the months since this review I've learned a lot about whisky and my palate. One of those things is that I really don't take to most wine finishes unless they're far in the background. I applaud much of McEwan's experimentation, but, um, this one (the 7 year) I don't understand at all. I can still smell it up in my nasal memory.

      Is the 8yr be better? Probably. The Hi Time buyers are excellent. I've been tempted by their Signatory Bowmore more than once.

  2. I was scanning the shelves at Beltramo's yesterday when I noticed they had an official Bowmore 1992 16 year old Bordeaux Matured bottle. I've done some research and it appears to be 8 years in ex-bourbon and 8 years in a Bordeaux cask. Since there was exactly one bottle left I decided to grab it for $109.99. Granted I might have wasted my money but the fact Bowmore was willing to bottle it offically suggested the experiment might have quality (let's not bring up FWP).

    My inital impression is that the wine cask surprisingly did not overpower the peat or the whisky itself. In fact I'd say the flavor profile is more like Lagavulin 16 with some smoked meat (or bacon?) on the nose. A very unusual but tasty Bowmore. Maybe the independents should leave the wine finishes to the distillery.

    1. Ah ha! Yeah, I think Hi Time had a bottle of that at the beginning of this year, for maybe a little more $.

      Brave choice. Perhaps Bowmore was wise enough to keep the wine as just a seasoning rather than a co-star. Maybe the high strength helps a little too? I do think wine finishes occasionally work. I liked the Longrow Burgundy much more than I'd expected, though it was a sweetie.