We're back with the next two reviews from Fèis Ìle 2022. This time we're looking at the offerings from Bowmore & Laphroaig.
Bowmore 15yo Fèis Ìle 2022
This 2022 Fèis Ìle bottling from Bowmore was matured in 1st fill bourbon casks. The distillery released 3,000 bottles. We’re pretty excited for this one as we’re big fans of Bowmore, and in particular the 2019 Fèis Ìle release that was also a 15yo matured in first fill bourbon.
Whisps of light smoke with green apple, lime and a hint of salt in the background. There’s a caramel sweetness here, not particularly rich but a slight caramelisation of sugar. There’s a fair bit of alcohol on the nose presenting as white pepper spice and perhaps a hint of juniper too. There’s the expected vanilla aromas from the oak along with shortbread-like buttery, biscuity smell. It’s a pleasant nose but we’re not blown away yet.
A fruit salad on the palate, surprising notes of apricot, pineapple and mango follow into a creamy, vanilla custard. The mouthfeel is good, it’s oily and creamy but there’s a fair alcohol kick here which throws the overall palate’s balance off slightly. There’s a nice sweetness on the finish but overall it’s a little short, we were hoping for a bit more length. There’s a lack of smoke here, you get it on the nose but it’s almost non-existent on the palate.
Nose (with water)
We’re getting more vanilla and more smoke, a little more in line with what we expected from a 1st fill bourbon matured Bowmore. There’s a newly found grassy note in the background, similar to the aroma of freshly fallen autumn leaves. It’s richer now, with more oak, smoke and a more prominent overall aroma coming from the glass. The alcohol feels more in balance too.
Palate (with water)
We’re still getting some of that tropical fruit, but in a similar fashion to the nose, the oak and smoke have made an entrance. There’s creamy vanilla, oak spice, in a way it reminds us of a White Russian cocktail, with the wood providing the bitterness in place of coffee. It feels more in balance now, a little more complex but still lacking slightly on the finish.
We have fond memories of the 15 year old first fill bourbon matured Bowmore that we experienced when touring the distillery just after Feis 2019, so we had certain expectations going into this dram. It’s very different than our expectations, with more tropical fruits and less smoke. Then we got to adding water and the dram really opened up, giving us a richer, sweeter, more in-balance experience. We were a little let down by the finish but we still think it warrants an 8/10.
Laphroaig Càirdeas 2022 (Warehouse 1)
While previous year’s releases of Càirdeas have relied on interesting cask finishes, Laphroiag have opted to use first-fill Maker’s Mark bourbon casks for this release. These casks have spent their life in Warehouse one.
Toasted oak, sea salt and an initially-subtle peat smoke that grows as you continue to nose the dram. There’s a nice seaweed like aroma coming through, a little charred wood and dried thyme leaves. Going back we’re getting some dried pineapple slices, orange zest and baked apples. It’s not as intense or aggressive as we were expecting, but it has a nice balance of smoke, oak and sweetness.
An initial herbal hit, like chewing on a bouquet garni. Dry earth, medicinal peat smoke backed up with a rich vanilla frosting on top of a sponge cake. There’s freshly squeezed orange juice on the front palate, leading into an ashy, tobacco-like flavour. The finish has a good length, with salty, slightly sour flavours lingering. Going back we’re getting some black pepper, a slight chalkiness, some barley sugars and a little poached pear.
Nose (with water)
We’re getting more ash, tar and tobacco like aromas, but the bourbon sweetness is still very present. There’s some burnt honey and a little nuttiness too. The balance of peat and alcohol is still very good, and overall it feels balanced if not a little simple.
Palate (with water)
Water tames some of the herbal flavours, but brings the smoke and earthiness to the forefront. There’s more of the vanilla, some white pepper, struck matches and a little fudge too. There’s a nice counterbalance of salt in each sip which stops it from being overwhelmingly sweet. The peat is still powerful and the finish maintains a good length, but become slightly drying and a tad bitter.
There’s no doubt about it, this is a solid release with good balance, but we can’t help think it’s a little simple flavour-wise. It’s sweet and salty, peaty and earthy, but none of those are really blowing us away. Saying that, sometimes you want a good Islay dram to sip away at without trying to get too deep into it, and for us this ticks those boxes. We’d happily drink through the whole bottle.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
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