Whisky tasting: Bowmore Small Batch

Bowmore. I’ve talked about this distillery before. Great town, a cafe serving the best black pudding known to humanity, a cute round kirk. A distillery that, when it’s not good (Bowmore Legend), makes me want to burn the whole town down.

On a whim, I picked up a bottle of the 12yo, and have been enjoying it quite a bit (will write it up at some point). Last year at Whisky Live I recall tasting the Small Batch, and liking it, but anyone can tell you, sometimes things get a little blurred at Whisky Live.

So, figuring I may have been remembering things right, I bought a bottle. It ticks all the boxes that would make a whisky snob run the other way (no age statement, 40% ABV, pobably chill filtered, probably with added colour, RRP <$70), but where’s the fun if not in winding up hipsters?

For the tasting, I’m even forgoing the Glencairn for a Bowmore promotional glass — it still tulips a little but could be considered a closer relative of the dreaded tumbler.

Colour: I don’t usually note a dram’s colour, given it could be because of anything really, but will make an exception here. The Small Batch is a beautiful golden colour, somewhere between straw and pathology sample, but I like it.

Nose: It’s Bowmore on the nose; a little smoke, some seaweed (but not too much), black pepper, vanilla, a little honey, maybe some toffee too.

Taste: It’s a little jumbled, lots of things going on, so it’s like malt-and-toffee-and-citrus-and-honey-and-vanilla-and-pepper. It’s good, if possibly a little sharp, and maybe lacking a little body.

Finish: Pleasant, if a little dry, and not exceptionally long. There’s a hint of smoke at the end, and possibly a bit of spice, ginger and maybe nutmeg. A wave of orange appears when I exhale, and is gone.

And with a drop of water…

Nose: maybe a hint of licorice? A little sweeter, maybe boiled sweets in the mix?

Taste: Did I only add a drop? It’s now more cohesive, but less going on. Malt, honey and a hint of spice, but not firing on all cylinders. It has lost the sharp edge though. Quite smooth.

Finish: A smooth and delicate hint of the sea, maybe in the dryness. The orange wave has gone.

And the official notes http://www.bowmore.com/whiskies/small-batch/ :

On the eye warm gold.

Breathe in vanilla fudge, sea air and peat smoke, balanced beautifully by honeycomb and cinnamon spice.

Sip mouth-watering citrus, gentle saltiness and vanilla with flakes of coconut.

Savour the wispy smoke, bourbon vanilla and lime finish.

I’m not spotting the coconut, but an impressed at how much I’m in agreement with the official notes. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this.

Overall it’s a good dram. Not as good as the 12yo, but not at all unpleasant. I’d go for skipping the water. A solid sipper.

Whisky tasting: Bowmore Black Rock

I’ve talked about my love-hate deal with Bowmore, so I won’t repeat that. Instead I’ll go off on a travel retail rant. The Black Rock is one of the 3 or 4 “travel retail exclusives” that Bowmore do. I’ve had two of them, the White Sands and this one, and the White Sands is the only onen in the range carrying an age statement. So there’s two black marks against this one before the bottle is even open, in these days where NAS and TR are frowned upon.

I’ve had a couple of naff TR drams (no names but they were definitely below the standard normally delivered) so I was a little hesitant to start with this one. But start I did.

Nose: rounded, caramel, malt, vanilla, spice, maybe cinnamon, orange peel, a hint of peat smoke.

Taste: lots of chewy malt up front, dark chocolate, orange, cardamom, salted caramel, demerera sugar, a little smoke coming in over the top but not overpowering.

Finish: decent length, toffee, smoky malt and a hint of the sea.

And with a drop of water.

Nose: More dark chocolate and spice, a profound opening event. Less citrus, more toffee.

Taste: Coffee and spice over the top, and pepper.

Finish: All the above, maybe less salt and some milk chocolate.

The official tasting notes:

On the eye dark amber

Breathe in smoke infused with raisins, pepper, warm cocoa beans and burnt orange

Sip rich sherry and peat smoke followed by blackcurrant treacle toffee and cinnamon spice

Savour beautifully balanced peat smoke and sea salt

It’s good stuff. It maybe NAS, TR, chill filtered and only 40%, but I’m happy to recommend it.

Whisky Tasting: Bowmore Tempest Batch 3

It’s been a while between drinks. Well, not really, but a while between tasting notes. Kicking off a new run with the Bowmore Tempest, Batch 3. I have a love/hate deal with Bowmore, they produce some wonderful drams in the Darkest, White Sands and Black Gold. The Small Batch is fine for what it is. The Legend is legendary in all the wrong ways: an unbalanced thin smoky drop that shouldn’t be called whisky; the 12 is a similarly single note affair,  and it’s not a good note. Reaching for a strange Bowmore is a gamble for me, it could be a real treasure.

Nose: citrus, hints of an ocean breeze, light peat, sweetness.

Taste: Cocoa malt, salted caramel, smooth smoke,  hints of cardamom and spice.

Finish: Long and smooth, a little peat, a lot of chocolate, a little toffee.

In the name of science I’ll add a drop of water.

Nose: More toffee, same ocean.

Taste: more citrus and spice, maybe pepper and ginger?

Finish: Maybe a little shorter, but it’s cask strength so it could be a trick of the palate.

It’s a strong dram, but well balanced at cask strength. It’s a Bowmore with a lot of depth, and I like it this way.

The official tasting notes here say: http://www.bowmore.com/whiskies/tempest/

Tempest Batch No. 3 – 55.6% ABV

On the eye bright, golden summer barley.

Breathe in Seville orange zest with Islay peat smoke.

Sip initally dry but giving way to reveal orange blossom and an atlantic sea-salt tang.

Savour lingering warming peat.

It’s a fine dram, but don’t buy it all, I may want another bottle. A good Bowmore is a fine thing.

Deserted Island Whisky Case list: Draft 1

This one just some thoughts out loud. Given the scenario of being stuck somewhere deserted (and fairly cool, not a hot desert tropical humidity pit, but maybe a spot in the Outer Hebrides) with a case (6 bottles) of whisky, what would I choose. (The other assumptions are some clear, clean, wonderfully refreshing potable water, and for all but one of the whiskies to be vaguely reasonably commercially available somewhere for under about $250, so there’s no point listing a case of Port Ellen anything.)

Here goes draft 1:

  • Laphroaig 10 year old cask strength
  • Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera
  • The Macallan 12 year old Sherry Cask
  • Bowmore 15 year old Darkest
  • Ballantines 17 year old
  • something from Port Ellen

Some peaty, some smooth, some sherried, and a special bottle for special occasions. At a glance I could swap the Ballantines for an Ardbeg, but think it’d probably give me too much peaty (bearing in mind the Laphroaig is cask strength and probably in a 1L bottle). Realistically otherwise possibly swap the Ballantines for a Highland Park.

Feel free to add your list to the comments.

(Note, there’s no right or wrong answers, so this isn’t a serious argument starter.)