Elements of Islay was launched in 2008 as a showcase for single malts from the Hebridean island – 78 releases later, the periodic table inspired bottlings now include a blended malt (that can be customised with Whisky Exchange’s Personalise your Peat service) The series avoids the inclusion of age statements - each bottling is a batch produced vatting from a selection of different casks (between 5 and 20 it says on their brand page) and therefore a unique creation designed to highlight the character of the distillery of origin.
The seventh edition of BW is a vatting of 4 sherry butts which were distilled back in 2001. It’s botted at a cask strength (which Elixir describe as ‘full proof’) of 53.2% ABV and is available from Whisky Exchange for £99.95 as of writing.
Nose: Opening with some obvious sherry influence – raisin, chocolate and toffee – this then expresses both the sea and the land. Smoked fish, salty minerality, rock pools and very light dusty/cloudy peat smoke are joined by wet soils, water-logged tree stumps and walnuts. Running throughout are some pronounced tropical fruit aromas – mango, and papaya. The addition of water brings out some underlying breadiness, with doughs and buns, as well as adding a hearty sprinkle of caster sugar across the top of everything.
Taste: Quite syrupy with some really good weight. Again, we start with the sherry-led flavours – Toffee, chocolate, reduced berry fruit, oranges and tobacco. Then comes the peat – much more concentrated then on the nose – somewhat inland with a burning logfire, then coastal with tinges of brine and surface cleaner. Minerality remains high – licks of salinity, rock pools, beach pebbles and wet slate. Water (of which only a few drops are required – this drowns fairly easily) helps express malts and nuts as well as transforming the smoke from wispy vapour clouds into dusty crystalline chalk – this presents a slight texture change also.
Finish: Long, sherry and the sea – chocolate and raisins, citrus and salt. Sweetness returns through the finish – as if everything has been sugar-dipped.
Elements of Islay BW7 is a tasty sherry-forward whisky. The peating is fairly light on this one – certainly lighter than some of the other BW releases I’ve tasted in the past. The sherry however is the quite the opposite, and sweetness is pronounced throughout the experience. This is by no means a bad thing – especially if your mainstay style is sweet meets peat. However, I find it a bit of a blunt instrument in places - the saccharine starting to mask some of the more nuances aspects of the Bowmore spirit. Likewise, the bottling is not cheap - £100 for 50cl - but, alas, that's the world we live in nowdays - casks from Islay distilleries have become exceedingly expensive, and independent bottlers have to earn their living too. Helpfully Whisky Exchange have started producing sample bottles under ‘The Perfect Measure’ moniker (and the bottles themselves are pretty cute too) – so you can try before you buy on this Elements Bowmore here.