Whisky Tasting Notes: Bowmore 12 yr old

It has been a bit since my last online review of whisky, and I need to get my chops up to speed as I head out next week.

When I first sat down to make the schedule for the Scottish part of the trip, I figured that time allowed for either a trip to Speyside or a trip to Islay, but not both. Due to the sheer numbers of distilleries in the Speyside area, not to mention the cooperage, I decided on the former. At the moment, I’m having a bit of buyer’s remorse, as it seems that the Islay whiskies are more distinctive…more defined if you will. Don’t get me wrong. there are many Speyside whiskies that are doing innovative and interesting things. It’s just that…well. I wanted to see all of the whiskey areas of Scotland, and now I feel as if I’m missing out a bit.

Bowmore is one of the Islay places that I wished to visit. It is one of the older distilleries in Scotland, having been established in 1779. Since this is about 45 years before the British Government made it less of a hassle to distill, it’s likely that Bowmore was producing a fair amount of “black market” whisky back in the day. The problem with this assertion is that it’s based more on timing than on evidence.

Their promotional materials boast “Bowmore Distillery is one of an ever decreasing handful of distilleries to produce its own floor malted barley. The barley is still laboriously hand turned, by the Maltman, using the traditional wooden malt shovel.” What they are saying is that they malt their barley on site, a task that other distilleries have outsourced. Come to think of it, out of the other distilleries I have visited thus far, I saw no pre-mash grain except for those in promotional displays. Hmmm.

So, how does it taste?

A light amber tint. In large amount it’s more apparent than in a glass.

There’s a bit of peat smell to this, unsurprisingly. But there’s also a bit of citrus there as well. Oddly, a memory of walking the coast of Vancouver Island whilst I was in Victoria, BC a few years back came to my head.

The mouth feel was light and clean, much like the Bunnahabhain. A medicinal/peaty taste demanded attention first but that gave away quickly to a light smoke-dark honey flavor.

The smokey flavor continues, and a saltiness to the whisky comes through at the end – Not suddenly, but as if the other flavors kinda sorta drained away.

The more I drink Islays, the more I want to try others. The Bowmore continues me down this path.

Here’s where it ranks on my list of preference.

Very Good
Bushmills Black Bush
Bunnahabhain – 12 yr old
Bowmore – 12 yr old
The Macallan – 18 yr old

Centennial Premium Rye 10 Years Old
The Glenlivet