I've had pretty mixed experiences with Bowmore in the past, ranging from a fairly resounding 'meh' for their standard lineup to enjoying an Exclusive Malts release but thinking it was too expensive, to outright disgust at a K&L single cask. But through all of that I've believed that Bowmore makes good spirit that is too often treated poorly. So I was looking forward to trying this less heralded release from Signatory's Un-Chillfiltered Collection that I picked up a few years ago.
This whisky was distilled on April 4th 1999, filled into a bourbon barrel, then bottled on March 17th 2011 at 46% without coloring or chill filtration.
Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Bowmore 11 Year 1999/2011 Cask #800195
Nose: very aromatic, fresh malt, dry peat smoke, seashore/shells, grassy/floral, rubber, moderate oak, berries, vanilla. After adding a few drops of water the fruit notes are amplified, the peat tones down a bit and integrates with the malt,
Taste: big malt and oak sweetness up front, gentle tannins underneath and berries on top, fading into slightly rubbery peat and coal smoke, then growing mango/passion fruit notes at the back. After dilution the initial sweetness is slightly suppressed, the berry/fruit notes in the middle are amplified, and the peat and oak become stronger at the back, with undertones of vanilla emerging throughout.
Finish: malt, hints of peat smoke, tropical fruit, berries, gentle oak tannins, black pepper
While it took a decent fraction of the bottle for this malt to open up, it has turned into almost everything I could ask for from a young-ish peated bourbon cask whisky. There's sweetness, but not too much. Peat, but not so much that it overwhelms the other elements. Fruit, but not full Speyside. Oak, but not so much that I feel like I'm chewing on wood. At 46% there is plenty of flavor density and mouthfeel, but without the heat that would likely come if it had been at cask strength. It's just competent and tasty at a reasonable price ($54 when I bought it). Given how frequently I've been disappointed by Bowmore, either in terms of quality or price, this was a nice change of pace.
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