Monday, June 29, 2020

Whisky Review: Bowmore Legend (Late-90s)

Time for some blasts from the past.

I managed to find a(n almost?) full set of Bowmore miniatures in a tiny whisky shop in Ravenna called the Old England Scotch House. Tucked away in a side street not far from San Vitale, it's the kind of specialist shop that barely exists in the States. While my lack of checked luggage prevented me from getting any of enticing bottles, I was able to find some very fun things in their selection of miniatures.

This whisky was aged in ex-bourbon casks, then bottled at 43% with coloring and chill filtration.

Bowmore Legend (Late-90s)

Nose: classic bourbon cask Bowmore - fresh malt, dusty grains, gentle caramel, berries, pleasant peat smoke, floral vanilla in the background. After adding a few drops of water it becomes rougher but more expressive - the berries expand, the malt is creamier, and the peat and oak get a bit stronger.

Taste: malt and cask sweetness up front continuing through to the back with some floral flourishes, a little tannic with some berries in the middle, plus light peat notes underneath that expand going into the swallow. After dilution it become softer and much more fruity (almost sherried), with the peat arriving earlier and more strongly, but also more oak tannins.

Finish: dry peat smoke, grape-y oak, floral, sweet malt

While nothing show-stopping, I really enjoyed it. While maybe a little less complex than the newer Small Batch I tried a while back, it is less overtly youthful and a little more full-bodied thanks to being bottled at 43%. The trademark Bowmore floral notes are present here, but much less strong than I've found in other expressions. This was probably drawn from their 90s distillate after they had solved their problems from the 80s.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how well it handled water. While it did lose a bit of body, the brighter, fruitier flavors were quite welcome. Oddly that also meant that the finish had more of an alcoholic nip, but that might have been solved by more time in the glass.

These bottles apparently can go for big money now, which is either a reflection of people liking this even more than I do or the current mania for bottles from the past, whatever their quality. But like I said above, if you can still find something like Small Batch (defunct, but not impossible to find at its original price) you'll be pretty close without breaking the bank.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Whisky Review: Glencadam 15 Year (2009)

Sort of like how the 17 Year was created when Ardbeg was revived, the first release from Glencadam after its purchase and restart by Angus Dundee was a 15 Year. This may have been because of the brief shutdown of the distillery between 2000 and 2003, leading to them trying to build up younger stock to ensure future releases, though I can't be sure.

Perhaps a bit behind the times, the 15 Year was originally bottled at 40%. When they introduced the 10 Year in 2009 they revamped the line at 46% and renamed the 15 Year "The Rather Dignified". I guess we'll see if it lives up to that.

This whisky was aged in ex-bourbon casks, then bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration on July 1st, 2009.

I purchased this sample from The Whisky Exchange.

Glencadam 15 Year (2009)

Nose: good balance between clean malt, gentle dusty oak, a little caramel, mixed fruit (berries, apples, pears), and light vanilla. After adding a few drops of water it gets kind of muddled, the alcohol is more overt, and the aromas shift towards the casks.

Taste: sweet malt with unripe apples and pears up front, rounded sweetness in the middle that fades out into gentle bittersweetness with some oak tannins. After dilution it gets kind of watery and hot without any development.

Finish: a little heat, clean malt, green fruit, gentle oak

While this is honestly more what I expected the 10 Year to be, it's really rather generic. While it is 50% older, I also suspect that there are some more active casks in the mix. At the same time I'm not sure this achieves much more than a competent Speysider. I appreciate that they stuck with ex-bourbon casks, which was somewhat uncommon even at the time when at least a touch of sherry was fairly standard. Something closer to the similarly aged Balblairs I've sampled could have pulled me in, but this isn't more than decent.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Whisky Review: Glencadam 10 Year (2009)

Despite having some samples in the back of my cabinet for the better part of a decade, Glencadam is one of those distilleries that I've managed to not experience yet. As usual, I will leave most of the history to Malt Madness, but there is one relevant wrinkle here.

Glencadam is one of the few remaining independent (major) distilleries in Scotland, having been purchased by the blender Angus Dundee in 2003. This was after Allied had mothballed the plant in 2000 and laid off all of the employees but one as surplus to requirements. Because the gap was relatively short, they have taken an approach more similar to Glendronach in maintaining a full age stated lineup. The 10 Year was introduced with a new label design in 2008 along with an upgrade to full craft presentation.

This whisky was aged in ex-bourbon casks (probably refill, given the lack of color), then bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration on June 25th, 2009.

I purchased this sample from The Whisky Exchange.

Glencadam 10 Year (2009)

Nose: straightforwardly malty - sweet, creamy malt, a touch of oak, graham crackers, mixed fruit (berries, melons), lightly floral, vanilla. After adding a few drops of water it remains largely the same, but a little bit softer.

Taste: clean malty sweetness up front, kind of green/new make-y with citrus/fruity/floral overtones and vanilla undertones in the middle, then gently bittersweet grain with more floral notes going into the finish. After dilution it becomes softer and sweeter, but the green notes in the middle largely fade.

Finish: a little heat, clean malt, fresh hay, floral, a touch of oak

This is right on the edge of being too immature for my taste. To a degree I commend them for being willing to put out a more 'naked' malt without any fussy casks, but I do wish the wood had been a bit more active. They clearly have some respectable if not remarkable spirit, so I can imagine it becoming better with more time.

As a small note, I was a bit worried when I got this miniature out because the fill level looked low, but between the picture I took immediately after purchase and on other sites selling these miniatures, it looks like that's just the fill point for Glencadam. A bit odd, but no harm done.