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.
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