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.

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