Back to Islay, this time looking at two releases from Bowmore distillery, one a distillery exclusive and the other from Cadenheads.
Bowmore 20 David Simson
We’ve heard this release was matured for 15 years in Oloroso sherry casks before being transferred PX casks for a further five years. 6,000 bottles were released and it's only available at the distillery.
Burnt treacle, the typical raisins, sultanas and molasses you'd expect from the sherry casks. It’s Christmas cake without the icing. Lots of nutmeg and cinnamon, we don’t usually comment on colour but it smells exactly as you’d expect looking at how dark it is. You can notice the alcohol here but it’s really in balance with the sherry aromas. There’s also very light smoke here, it reminds us of chocolate being melted, where it’s just about to burn. There’s something that reminds us of a Sauternes dessert wine, maybe a little stewed apricots. It’s decadent in every way, and you can stick your nose straight into the glass without singeing your nose hairs.
It’s almost like drinking straight PX, but ends a lot drier. It’s incredibly syrupy with more dried fruits, chocolate, salted caramel and a little cardamom spice at the end. Going back we’re getting some orange marmalade, apple that's almost gone mushy, a little tobacco and leather. The smoke is here but, similar to the nose, it’s so well balanced with the syrupy sweetness that the oloroso and PX have imparted on the spirit. The finish is good and long.. just when you think it’s disappeared you get a little tingle of fruit appearing again. Wow.
Nose (with water)
We’re getting ginger, star anise and burnt oak. That’s not to say the fruit is gone, just now we’re getting some candy raisins (that sort of synthetic sweetness) and burnt tea leaves. It’s quite a bit deeper and smokier now. There’s maybe even some grass and a touch of hay. Coming back to it and keeping our nose a little bit further away, we’re getting a nice creamy vanilla note, and then moving our noses closer we’re back to the rich treacle and toffee.
Palate (with water)
A little tighter, it’s sweet but the alcohol has stiffened up and we’re getting some fizzy sherbet on the tongue. There’s now some maple syrup drizzled over bacon, and it’s quite salty on the back palate. We’re finding persimmon, black pepper, cinnamon and a touch of grapefruit. It’s a little lighter now, not as luscious on the palate, but still holding a nice long finish.
We always try to consider price when giving a score to a whisky, so when we say this whisky is a 9/10, we mean this whisky is worth/we would personally pay over the odds for it. It’s arguably a perfect, or maybe just a brilliant marriage of sherry and peat from one of our favourite distilleries. Incredible, amazing.. it’s as good of a Bowmore as we’ve ever tried.
Bowmore 14yo 1998/2012 Cadenheads
This release was matured in a refill bourbon hogshead for 14 years before being released as part of the Authentic Collection.
Creamy vanilla that mixes incredibly well with the light peat smoke. The smoke is masquerading as burnt coffee, and we’re also getting a fair bit of earthiness. Going back to it we’re finding some sour apple, hazelnuts and some tobacco. It’s a little weird.. the nose is very light and restrained, with the dominant note being the smoke, but the smoke is also very light and restrained. Quite pleasant though.
Roasted salted peanuts, burnt ginger biscuit, smoked custard with a tingly finish that goes on for a good length. There’s an initial hit of sweetness but it quickly dissipates to smoke/tar. To us it’s quite smokey for a Bowmore. Going back we’re getting salt and vinegar crisps, mussels in a white wine and cream sauce and some toasted hazelnuts. The alcohol makes itself known in the form of young spirit/ethanol notes, but it doesn’t have any of the associated burn or spice.
Nose (with water)
Much nuttier, those roasted peanuts and hazelnuts are back in force. The alcohol/ethanol has also made a distinct entrance, petrol, more smoke, iodine and burnt oak. We’re quite surprised at the peat level we detect here, we were expecting a much gentler smoke influence. Going back there’s a certain paint stripper aroma now.. a little less to our taste.
Palate (with water)
Oh, there’s some honey now, but then we’re back to the bitter burnt oak. Candied peanuts now, it’s actually brought out a lot more sugar than before. There’s still a fair alcohol burn here, and we’re still getting the overwhelming peat smoke.
It’s nice without water, and overall a good dram, but not what we want from Bowmore. There’s a bit too much dominating smoke and ethanol that makes it slightly unpleasant. Saying that, it’s quite a savoury dram so might be up your alley, but for us we’ll keep searching.
- 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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