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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%
(sample from gridleysredemption, thank you sir!)


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)


  1. I'm shocked I missed this one when it came out - I have no recollection of it!
    I still have a few bottles of the Hepburn's Choice 2001 *12yo* bottled in 2014 and I love it.

    1. I thought I split a bottle with you, but maybe that's someone else's label.


    2. Wow, Jordan, right you are, we did share this - thanks for calling me on it!
      My notes below look like they match Michael's measure for measure. I took points off for lack of cohesion, which is probably why I didn't buy more. I did finish this pretty quickly, and if I had a full bottle I may have been more appreciative by the end of it.

      "This is the sherry cask Bowmore with very heavy smoky/burned notes. Hot take: Char, marmalade (quince, prunes, orange rind), new rubber, green olives on nose. Palate: sweet, ashy, drying. Finish: walk in a S. California wildfire. Weird one! It's like Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Clément rhum & Armagnac were thrown into a fire-salvaged cask. The whole is disjointed and the good spirit is struggling to come out. Maybe it will open up. 82p? It came together more as it opened, the hot take was a bit harsh. 84 pts? Clear sherry presence & color but a bit `added on'."