Thursday, July 9, 2020

Whisky Review: Bowmore 21 Year (Late-90s)

Finally, the last of this series. This is also one of the older Bowmore's I've ever had the chance to try. The Prime Malt 21 Year/1982 is the same age, but drawn from a slightly later period. Assuming that this OB is actually from the late-90s, it should have been distilled somewhere in the late-70s. I guess we'll see how much of a difference that makes.

This whisky was aged in (I believe) a mixture of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, then bottled at 43%, probably with coloring and chill filtration.

I purchased this sample from the Old England Scotch House.

Bowmore 21 Year (Late-90s)

Nose: kind of closed - oak-y sherry, maple syrup/caramel, vanilla, baking spices (cinnamon), light lavender, a touch of peat. After adding a few drops of water the bourbon casks are emphasized and most of the other notes fade into the background.

Taste: surprisingly hot - moderate sherry sweetness up front, joined by some oak tannins and floral notes in the middle, maltier fade out with a touch of peat. After dilution it gets a little watery but the heat entirely disappears, the sherry up front is replaced by American oak sweetness, and the floral notes shift into the background.

Finish: lingering oak and lavender, grape/purple, sherry residue, fresh malt

This is something of an odd duck. It appears to have leapfrogged the worst of the lavender, but the result is something kind of generic. Given that the peat has faded even more, I would probably peg this as some kind of older Highland malt. The lavender is the only thing really connecting it to Bowmore, though even that is balanced enough here that I'm not sure I would automatically guess it. If it had some of the older Bowmore tropical fruit I would move it up a notch, but I couldn't really find any. So there's nothing wrong with this malt and I would drink more if offered, but I also don't get the feeling that it's something I need to search out in future.

For a slightly different take on what I think is the same whisky, see The Whiskey Jug.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Whisky Review: Bowmore 17 Year (Late-90s)

Last week's 12 Year was already deep in the lavender era. If the dating of this miniature is correct, the spirit should be drawn from the late-70s to the early-80s - the very front end of that period rather than the middle.

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

I purchased this sample at the Old England Scotch House.

Bowmore 17 Year (Late-90s)

Nose: big floral notes (lavender) with a purple/grape tinge, clean malt underneath, caramel, very light sherry, creamy vanilla, tannic oak and dry peat (more with time), and something savory. After adding a few drops of water the lavender becomes more integrated, the sherry is stronger, plus there's a little more peat and savoriness.

Taste: sweeter malt and bourbon cask notes bouncing back and forth with big floral/lavender up front, shifts towards bittersweet oak tannins from the middle back. After dilution the sweetness up front is joined by some sherry, the oak near the back is joined by some caramel, and citrus peel comes out around the middle.

Finish: lingering lavender, sweet malt and bourbon cask, polished oak tannins, very light peat, slightly sour

There are a lot of similarities with the 12 Year I just reviewed, but age had noticeably improved this one. While the lavender is still over the top, it's a little more integrated, though the even more diminished peat isn't around to help much. I do like the balance of bourbon and sherry casks, since I feel like the former often lets the spirit shine more than the latter (at least in Bowmore OBs) Unlike the 12 Year I would drink more if offered, but it's not something I need to search out. While the current 18 Year has its flaws, I honestly think it's a better whisky.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Whisky Review: Bowmore 12 Year (Late-90s)

This is a really interesting one for me since I've tried various iterations of the standard 12 Year a few times as well as the 12 Year Enigma. If my guess for the late-90s bottling date is correct, this was drawing spirit directly from the most infamous period in the late-80s/early-90s.

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

I purchased this sample from the Old England Scotch House in Ravenna.

Bowmore 12 Year (Late-90s)

Nose: thin and kind of muddled - caramel, floral, citrus peel, baked apples, savory notes, light sherry and peat, somewhat plastic-y malt, buttery. After adding a few drops of water the sherry and floral notes become stronger, some hand soap emerges, while the peat and malt almost completely disappear.

Taste: caramel and citrus sweetness up front with lavender notes, carrying through to the back where there is a little more oak and the floral notes grow stronger, somewhat vegetal in the middle. After dilution it becomes extremely watery, the malt is creamier, but the flavors remain much the same.

Finish: strongly floral (lavender, especially), hand soap (especially after dilution) clean malt, caramel, light but lingering peat

Unlike Legend, this time I need to give the nod to the modern version. The problems that Bowmore became notorious for - muddled character, big floral notes, soap, and little peat - are on full display here. Surprisingly even the higher strength isn't enough to save it. 43% is a fairly significant bump, but it still reads as rather thin. Water just wrecks it. ABV isn't everything, I guess.

It was a bit better on the second tasting when I could get more peat, which helped to balance out the other elements, but even then it didn't hit the mark. While I think it could be useful for blending to add a twist to a fruitier malt, there's nothing about it on its own that grips me. This actually helps me to appreciate modern Bowmore, even if it still has room for improvement, because I can see how they managed to rein in some of their flaws while retaining their core character.