Posts tagged ‘Bowmore’

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.

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WhiskyLive Boston 2014 Review

Earlier this autumn, I attended Whisky Live Boston with several of my very good, whisky-loving friends. The great food, great company, and excellent whiskies always make this a highlight night of the year, and this year was no different. Here are some of my thoughts on some of the drams I really enjoyed from this wonderful evening…

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

Coming into the evening, the American whiskey that I was most looking forward to trying was the new 8th release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, a 13 year-old straight wheat whiskey. I was, of course, very excited when I saw a bottle of this sitting on the Heaven Hill display table, but I was a little disappointed on the whiskey overall. Perhaps my standards were too high because I was really stoked to try this one, but I found it a little too grain-driven for my tastes. This is still a very good whiskey and a great idea, but I did not like it as much as I have enjoyed previous PHC releases.

Lest you think I stormed out of the venue and swore off whiskey for the rest of my days, I did have the chance to enjoy some fantastic drams. I really enjoyed the balance between fruit, spice, and oak in the Redbreast 21 year-old, certainly one of the finest Irish whiskeys I have tried to date. I got to try some of the whiskeys that Koval is bottling, and I am anxious to find more. I was also very impressed with some of the Benromach whiskies I sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail display table (more on that in the weeks to come). I thoroughly enjoyed getting to taste the two most recent Laphroaig Cairdeas releases side-by-side. I preferred the 2013 release to the 2014 release, but they are both fantastic. The 3rd edition of the “Islands” impression from Bruichladdich was a wonderful pour, and the Speyburn 25 year-old is not to be missed. However, none of these wonderful whiskies were left holding a medal in my book at the end of the night (these medals are not real, so I apologize if I got your hopes up). Without further ado, here were my three favorites from WhiskyLive Boston 2014.

Bronze Medal Winner: The First Editions – Bowmore 17 yr. This is an independently bottled Bowmore that was distilled in 1996, and bottled in 2013 from a single ex-bourbon barrel at cask strength (52.8% abv). I think the Bowmore spirit is definitely best with a little age under it, and this one was really a zinger. The age smoothed out some of the plastic, acidic notes of Bowmore’s younger whiskies, and left a wonderful whisky. The palate was a full-bodied cavalcade of Memphis barbecue, peat, ginger, and wet clay. This one balanced the spirit and the cask wonderfully, giving a very welcome dose of peat and spices with some dark sweetness mixed in. The price tag on this bottle ($150-175/750ml) would probably be a little beyond what I would pay for the contents, but this was definitely a wonderful take on Bowmore’s spirit.

Silver Medal Winner: Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength (Batch 006). I will avoid ranting about this whisky here, as I have already given it plenty of praise on the blog with previous releases. That said, this was one of the best releases of the 10 year-old cask strength that I have had. It balances the sweet flavors of the ex-bourbon casks with the rich Laphroaig peat almost perfectly. This is always reasonably priced ($70-80/750ml) for the quality and strength, and is a very worthy addition to any winter liquor cabinet. I will certainly endeavor to buy a bottle of this wonderful whisky.

Gold Medal Winner: Bruichladdich Octomore 06.1 Scottish Barley. This was my first go at the legendary Octomore, a 5 year-old, cask strength peat monster (peated to 167 ppm, nearly four times as peated as standard Laphroaig), and I was lured into its mysteries. When the barley is peated to that level, something crazy happens, and this whisky shows a depth of character that I have rarely experienced. It smells and tastes like the earth after a bonfire, with a touch of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. There are also some lovely citrus notes that mingle with the soot and coaldust, giving the palate a sublime workout. This whisky is not cheap ($150-175/750ml), nor is it easy to find, so I do not think a full bottle is in my future, but this was surely my highlight of Whisky Live Boston 2014.

I know that my highlights were all peated Scotches, but those were the whiskies that stood out most to me, so that’s what I picked. All across the board, it was a night of wonderful whiskies, great company, and a wonderful venue with a fantastic aerial view of Boston. If you’re in Boston, hope to see you at Whisky Live Boston 2015 next fall!

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.

 

(What’s in) Phil’s Cabinet? March Edition

This is my cabinet as of March 1st, normally when I start to move towards more spring and summer whiskeys, but the seasons are so messed up in Boston that it is pretty hard to actually do anything concrete with them.

American:

Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey – A young, exciting whiskey from Bully Boy Distillers in Boston.

Bourbon:

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select – I cracked this one open the other day.  I know I’ve had a few requests for this one, and I’ll be reviewing it in a few weeks.

Angel’s Envy (unopened) – I’m saving this one for warmer temperatures.

Rebel Yell (unopened) – I’ve had some requests for this one, so I snagged a bottle the other day.  I’ll have a review up as soon as I kick a few of the other open bottles presently in my cabinet.

William Larue Weller (2012 bottling) – I opened this one up during Nemo the blizzard, and I haven’t decided whether or not to review this one yet.  At $70, it is right on the upper end of my price range for whiskey.  Any thoughts?

Rye:

Old Overholt Rye (unopened) – This is another one I have had some requests for, and although I have a bottle, it might be a month or two before a review goes up.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (2012 bottling) (unopened) – This one will probably get opened up before it gets too warm in Boston.  Like the Weller, let me know if you want to see a review on the blog.

Willett 4 yr. Estate Reserve Single Barrel – This one is going to be a tandem review with William from a Dram Good Time.  We should have our notes up for you by the end of next week.

Scotch:

Bowmore Legend – I should have a review of this Islay scotch up as soon as I finish my mini-series on Irish whiskey.

Those are the whiskeys I have in the cabinet as of March 1st, let me know if there are any reviews you would like to see.  In the meantime, let it ride!

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Review

Well, today is my birthday, so I am going for pure pleasure.  Today, I am doing a review of one of the finest whiskies on the planet, Bunnahabhain 12 year-old single malt Islay Scotch.  If you would like to know how to pronounce Bunnahabhain, let Brian Cox help you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=JanRqMtGtOI

I have talked a little about Scotch regions in the past, yet I have not yet talked about Islay.  Islay is my favorite Scotch region; it is known for massive, powerful whiskies that take your taste buds for one hell of a ride.  “Peat Monsters” like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin all come from Islay.  However, there is a lighter side of Islay as well, with distilleries like Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain.

Bunnahabhain is a non-chill filtered whisky, aged in Sherry casks, bottled at 92.6 proof.  It has a rich, amber color, a much darker color than most Islay Scotches.  On the nose, it is sweet and salty.  The sweetness comes primarily from the Sherry influence, giving way to almonds, dark fruits, berries, and sweet oak.  The saltiness comes primarily from the peat, offering a soft whiff of smoke every soft often in the nose.  The palate has the traditional fullness of an Islay Scotch, yet the flavor profile is much different.  The front of the palate picks up a full array of sweetness, with notes of hazelnuts, almonds, some light cinnamon sugar spiciness, blackberries, boysenberries, and dried apricots.  As the whisky moves towards its finish, it begins to show its Islay roots.  The back of the palate begins to get smokier, until the smoke finally releases its power in the finish.  The finish is long (another Islay trademark).  It starts off with a big puff of peat smoke, yet it becomes deliciously sweet over time, echoing the sweet and salty balance of the nose.  The finish seems to take you right to the sea, where a cool autumn breeze is blowing salt into your nostrils as you eat freshly picked raspberries.

As you might have guessed, I love this whisky.  My only wish is that the Sherry would not be quite so strong on the front of the palate.  Occasionally, you can find this whisky for under $50, which makes it a pretty good deal.  Honestly, I have seen other Scotches with this depth and complexity cost twice that much.  My grade: A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a whisky for special occasions, and it comes through beautifully.  It tastes well beyond its price point.