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.