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: Oban 14yo

What I know about Oban I could probably fit on one hand. I’m lead to believe that the correct pronunciation is closer to “o-bin”. The distillery is apparently right in the middle of town (a town I’ve been through, but didn’t see the distillery). Oban is owned by Diageo. There’s also a big-ass essay written on the bottle in small blue cursive that I can barely read sober — ain’t no drunk gonna read it.

So other than to note that this review sample is taken from the bottom of a bottle I cracked about 5 weeks ago, there’s not a lot of baggage attached to this dram.

So here goes…

Nose: there’s a hint of brine, and a little bit of citrus, but the deep malt notes are really dominating here. And they are deep, wave after wave.

Taste: hints of dark honey, a brief touch of cinnamon, quite full bodied without feeling oily. Rich toffee – but not too sweet.

Finish: quite long, with notes of medium dark chocolate, maybe a hint of coffee, maybe a toasty oak touch, but this is by no means smoky or peaty.

And with a drop of water…

Nose: I want to say there’s a hint of orange peel, but it’s probably closer to oak. I think the wood is more pronounced now. It’s a little more briny too.

Taste: It tastes a bit lighter, like milk chocolate, no where near the heavy dram it was, with more cinnamon, maybe mace. It’s quite surprising — we’re talking a single drop of water in about 20mL and the difference this time is pronounced.

Finish: is lighter, maybe a hint of citrus, but definitely milk chocolate.

And for the official tasting notes:

Rich sweetness and fruits – oranges, lemons and pears, with sea-salt and peaty smokiness.
A full, rich, almost oily malt.
Mouth-filling late autumn fruits – dried figs and honey-sweet spices; followed by a smoky malty dryness.
Long, smooth-sweet finish with oak-wood, dryness and a grain of salt.


So overall I got close to what they were hoping for — actually I’m pretty amazed at how close some of my words were to theirs (I didn’t cheat, either!).

Overall I liked the richer, un-watered Oban. It’s rich, deep, malty. Not very smoky at all, and not my favourite malt, but one I’m happy to have drunk. For the right price I’d possibly replace this bottle once it’s gone, but given my stash is lacking some staples right now (Caol Ila, Clynelish, Bowmore Darkest) this won’t be my first choice grab.

If you like rich, not too complex, not smoky but with a hint of the sea, try Oban 14yo. Or, like the tasting notes, you can take my recommendation with a pinch of salt.