I really should review more Bowmore on The Dramble. I’m firmly of the view that it’s a distillery who’s original bottlings are simply not as good as they used to be. Now, sure, 15 year old Darkest is a lovely drop, but two recent additions to the range have failed to changed my overall view on the distillery - The Vaults Edition left me rather cold, and the less said about the new NAS No.1, the better. However, in amongst some anaemic NAS, there are positive signs coming from Islay’s oldest distillery - A recent move back to age-statements for the distillery’s entire travel retail range should be applauded. Likewise, Bowmore’s recent ‘Vintner’s Trilogy’ all proudly stated their ages – and possess very healthy ABV’s too.
Nevertheless, I still have fond memories of Bowmore’s past – and I’m not talking about bottlings, black or otherwise, commanding 5-figure price labels. I'm talking about relatively standard, affordable distillery bottlings (or at least they were at the time). So, today we’ll take a look back at a 21 year old Bowmore, which was bottled around 2003. Oft-times referred to as the 'seagulls label', this is bottled at 43% ABV and is a marriage of casks, including some sherry.
Nose: Delicate, fruity and mineral. Commencing with chalky sand and rocky wet slate, this Bowmore’s minerality extends into its subtle smoke – coal dust, tar and a fire in a gravel pit, but all rather restrained and integrated with the other flavours. Slightly sherried, this offers heathery honey, melon, light fresh berries and a good whack of orange segments and peels. A few drops of water really heightens the orange-esque aroma into tangerines and satsumas. It also adds some light chocolate and coastal influence – rock pool water.
Taste: Sweet with ashy peat. Minerality continues, granite and slate mingle with chalky ashy peat, but are livened by very fresh, tart lemon and grapefruit juices. Orange peels, sour cherries and hedgerow berries make for a particularly fruity palate. Cask influence can be felt more keenly here – old wood beams, antique furniture and some ginger spicing. Water heightens the woody elements of this whisky further, emphasising oak and astringency, but also adding coffee beans and light chocolate.
Finish: Medium long and packed full of tangy citrus and chalky minerality.
Excellent older Bowmore which is as subtle as it is delicious. A nuanced interplay between sweet with peat, and coastal with mineral makes for a whisky which feels completely Islay, whilst at the same time never lets a single flavour profile dominate the experience. A wonderful composition that offers both complexity, and a look back at how good Bowmore’s whisky’s used to be. Perhaps they can recapture some of this awesomeness again in the future – let’s hope so.
But don't take our word for it..
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