Posts from the ‘Bowmore’ Category

Bowmore Small Batch Single Malt Scotch Review

While I’m on the subject of peat, I’m going to give my thoughts on one of my new favorite winter drams – Bowmore Small Batch Bourbon Cask Matured.  I haven’t written much on the blog about Bowmore, the oldest distillery on Islay, and that is mostly because I have never been a Bowmore lover.  That is not to say there aren’t Bowmore whiskies I like, but it’s hardly my favorite Islay distillery.  I enjoy Bowmore 18 year, I have tried some very good independently bottled Bowmore juice, and The Devil’s Casks releases have been some home run hitters.  However, all of the aforementioned whiskies are expensive and not always easy to come by.  Thus, I have not discussed Bowmore a lot.  Hopefully today’s review makes moves in an upward trend.

Bowmore’s new small batch bourbon cask release replaced their Legend bottling here in the United States.  Like the Legend, this is readily available and moderately priced.  However, although neither has an age statement, I suspect the new Small Batch release has a higher percentage of some older whisky in it, as well as a higher percentage of whisky from first-fill bourbon casks.  I have no facts on that, just a hunch.  Bowmore Small Batch is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The color is darker than I would expect from exclusively bourbon cask maturation leading me to believe that there is some caramel coloring in this bottle.  The nose here is not what I was expecting, it lacks the burning plastic note I get out of some young Bowmores.  Here, there is lime, honeysuckle, brine, sea spray, and damp earth.  It is really a delightful nose, although a bit thin.  The palate is light to medium in its body.  It enters with a big citrus note, salted oranges and lime zest.  It rolls into vanilla, lightly smoked earth, and salted caramel.  The finish is medium in length, with some barbeque, lime zest, and soft peat smoke.

Overall, this is a light whisky, but the flavors are in good balance, although they are not all that intense.  I probably would not pick this out as Bowmore juice were I to have tasted it blind; it lacked some typical Bowmore markers for me, which is a good thing for me because I have not always enjoyed Bowmore juice when I have tried it in the past.  This is a fine whisky, and I highly recommend it if you are someone looking for a lighter introduction into the magical island of Islay.  My grade: B-/B.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  Definitely a step-up for Bowmore’s base malt range, and a great value buy.

Bowmore Legend Scotch Whisky Review

Today, I am reviewing a whisky that I have been overdue in reviewing, Bowmore Legend.  This is one of the most reasonably priced single malt Scotches on the market today, especially from Islay.  At least up here in Boston, Islay malts have gone through the roof in popularity and price.  It is rare to find either Laphroaig or Ardbeg for under $55.  However, this no-age-statement Bowmore release is usually priced around $30, making it a quite reasonable purchase.

Legend is the first whisky that I’ve reviewed from Bowmore, a distillery located in the middle of the Isle of Islay, across Loch Indaal from Bruichladdich.  There is quite a rich history of distilling at Bowmore.  For starters, it is the oldest distillery on Islay (est. 1779), as well as being one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.  In the last 20 years or so, Bowmore has become famous for its Black Bowmore line, a series of vintage releases from Oloroso sherry casks.  Obviously, these old, sherried whiskies fall well beyond my price range, but I have yet to hear anyone say a marginally bad word about a Black Bowmore.  The general consensus among the “experts” is that Bowmore is a spirit best enjoyed with some age and some sherry influence.  Personally, I have always been a fan of the Bowmore 12 yr., but I have not had it in a while, and would need to refresh my memory in order to do a quality review.  I had hoped to grab a bottle of Bowmore 12 when I entered the store last month, but when I saw the Legend on sale, I grabbed this young whisky instead.  Legend is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv), and aged exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels.

On the nose, Legend produces some lovely notes of smoked honey barbeque, earthy peat, salted pork, fresh barley, and cooked plastic.  Overall, it is a fairly acidic nose, which is a bit off putting.  The palate is rather light, but there is a nice blend of sweet honey and malt with smoked meat and peat.  The sensation is not all that far from a honey-glazed ham steak.  The finish is peaty, with some brine notes, some sweet barley, some salt, and a nice lingering vanilla.  In my opinion, water brings the peat to the fore, which dulls down the complexity of this one for me.  This is a whisky that pairs most beautifully with something sweet, like chocolate covered almonds or vanilla pudding.

I have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to Legend (or maybe the Legend took a while to warm to me).  When I first cracked the bottle, I thought the whisky was too acidic, with some raw phenolic, iodine flavors that came off rough, like nail-polish remover.  However, halfway through the bottle, the whisky has rounded out nicely into a very solid everyday Islay malt at a great price.  My Grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This is a good, young, medium-bodied Islay whisky that makes for a good pour day to day.  I suspect this one would work very well in an Islay-based cocktail as well.