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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 that 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 vessels. 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