Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2023 & Bowmore Fèis Ìle 2023


Continuing our string of Islay reviews, we're looking at the Fèis Ìle 2023 releases from Kilchoman and Bowmore today.

    Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2023

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 55.3%

    Price: £120.00

    For the Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2023 bottling, Anthony Wills has combined three single casks for the release: an 11-year-old oloroso sherry butt and two ten-year-old bourbon barrels, all peated to 20ppm. The chosen casks were filled with spirit distilled from Publican barley grown in the distillery’s own fields in 2011 and 2012. The combination of the three casks produced 1159 bottles.

    Nose

    Initially, we get ready salted Pringles, pears, fresh earth, caramel, and a handful of bergamot flowers. Giving it time in the glass reveals lemon preserve, papaya, a little oak, and a touch of icing sugar. The smoke is very subtle here but adds a nice extra dimension to the nose.

    Palate

    The caramel and citrus from the nose appear on the palate, accompanied by bananas, peat, and mangoes. The smoke is definitely more noticeable on the palate and reminds us of the smoke from a smokehouse. Additionally, there are hints of red apples, candied ginger, and cinnamon spice. It has a good mouthfeel and a reasonable finish, with the sweeter notes and smoke, now ash, both lingering.

    Nose (with water)

    The reduction has made the nose creamier, and we're getting much more from the bourbon casks now. There's heaps of vanilla here, along with a toffee biscotti sundae and lime juice. The smoke (burnt coffee) is less pronounced, and the earthy note has disappeared, but it's still very pleasant.

    Palate (with water)

    With reduction, it has lost some of its mouthfeel and gained a fair amount of additional spice, resulting in a slightly bitter taste. The sweetness has become more synthetic, with the fruit flavours more difficult to detect. The finish is dominated by the presence of raw ginger spice, overshadowing the sweeter notes. The smoke has transformed into ash.

    Conclusion

    We enjoyed the unreduced nose and palate but recommend avoiding water as it doesn't benefit the palate. If the finish had been a little longer, we could have given this an 8, but it falls just a touch short, and we're going with 7.5/10.

    Score: 7.5/10

    Value

    Kilchoman has always been a touch pricey for its age, and this release follows suit. However, the price is in line with similar releases.

    Bowmore Fèis Ìle 2023

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 52.8%

    Price: £200.00

    For the Bowmore Fèis Ìle 2023 bottling, the distillery released an 18-year-old whisky that was matured in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. A total of 3,500 bottles were released for sale exclusively at the distillery.

    Nose

    Initially, we're getting notes of salted caramel, dates, and tobacco. Revisiting it, we detect aromas of prunes, mince pies, buttered gingerbread, orange peel, cranberries, and raspberries. The cask influence dominates over the typical Bowmore smoke and distillate character. However, it is still enjoyable to nose.

    Palate

    The palate is not as sweet as the nose. We detect notes of musty wet clothes in an unventilated room, along with hints of ash, raisins, sultanas, and prunes. Going back to it, we notice flavours of raspberries, cranberry sauce, blackcurrant jam, and pomegranate. It offers a reasonable mouthfeel and a decent length finish, although the lingering spice is a bit too pronounced for our tastes.

    Nose (with water)

    Initially, water doesn't have a significant impact on the nose. However, after letting it sit for a while, we notice a slight reduction in the sherry intensity, accompanied by a distinct liquorice note, hints of red cola, and rancio.

    Palate (with water)

    Water has brought out more smoke, and there's now an additional sweetness reminiscent of icing sugar. The mouthfeel remains unchanged, as does the finish. Speaking of the finish, we can now detect a subtle hint of bitter grapefruit. With a splash of water and time, it becomes increasingly apparent that this is a Bowmore.

    Conclusion

    When we saw this release, we were really hoping for something on par with the David Simson release. While this is a solid Bowmore, it falls short of that standard. That being said, it's not a bad whisky; it just doesn't quite measure up to other releases.

    Score: 7/10

    Value

    We would suggest saving your pennies on this release and opting for a significantly cheaper release from the SMWS, where their 18-year-old Bowmores are priced around £155.

    • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
    • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
    • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
    • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
    • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
    • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
    • 4 - Below average. Passable.
    • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
    • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
    • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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