This week’s review focuses on Bowmore and an expression which encapsulates everything that is great about this particular distillery.
Those who are familiar with the distillery would be aware that it is the 2nd oldest operating distillery in Scotland (after Glenturret) and that it is the oldest distillery on Islay, having been founded in 1779 and thereby belonging to a select group of distilleries which were founded in the 18th Century and are still producing quality whisky.
The distillery has been in the hands of Suntory since the 1980s and the merger with Beam Inc in 2014 brought about an even larger scope to the brand as it incorporated the distilleries within the Suntory portfolio (Auchentoshan, Bowmore, Glen Garioch, Hakushu and Yamazaki) as well as the distilleries within the Beam portfolio (Ardmore and Laphroaig).
Getting back to the whisky in hand, today’s review focuses on the Bowmore 15 Years Old Darkest expression from the distillery and while it initially follows the same maturation process of the other whiskies within the core range (a vatting of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks), it goes a step further by being vatted and then matured for a further 3 years in ex-Oloroso sherry casks.
The result is a whisky with an exceptional depth of flavour and sweetness coupled with the distinctive smoky and maritime DNA that one would expect from a Bowmore as well as an Islay whisky.
So, let’s get on with the review!
Bowmore 15 Years Old Darkest (43% abv)
Colour: Dark amber
Nose: Initial entry presents a pronounced maritime scent as well as a sweet sherried note that one would associate with oloroso sherry casks. Smoky peat as well as dried fish emerge after some time and intermingle well with hints of black pepper, nutmeg and aniseed.
With time, the nose becomes sweeter and somewhat richer and the peat lingers in the background but is definitely there, waiting to be called forth. Barley sugar and red fruits such as apricots and peaches are also apparent on the nose, adding to the fruity character of this dram. (22/25)
Palate: Rich and dense on initial entry, with a melange of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and aniseed) definitely apparent and intermingling beautifully with the sherry and smoke. With time, there is an oakiness which comes to the fore, adding a further level of complexity to this dram.
The red fruits from the nose become increasingly apparent and combine very well with the maritime character of this dram, while the smoke evolves from beach bonfire to cigar ash and becomes somewhat restrained. Smoked fish also makes an appearance towards the end. Velvety smooth on the palate. (22/25)
Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with the red fruits, sherry and smoke taking turns to trade punches. Quite a rich and enticing dram! (23/25)
Balance: A superbly balanced dram which manages to combine the sweet, fruity, spicy and smoky elements exceptionally well while allowing the respective components to shine on their own when needed. The mouthfeel was satisfyingly oily and the oakiness towards the end doesn’t detract from that aspect in any way.
An immensely enjoyable dram from a great distillery! (23/25)
It’s a shame that this expression isn’t as widely available these days as some of its NAS counterparts. I have my issues with the NAS releases from Bowmore and reckon that they are somewhat lacking in terms of the complexity that one would expect from the age-statemented offerings.
Considering that the Bowmore 15 Years Old Mariner is a firm favourite of mine, Darkest provides a very nice counterpoint from the same age bracket and definitely gives the Mariner a good fight.
My recommendation would be to snap up as many bottles of this while you still can as I believe that it will not last for long, especially if the distillery’s NAS programme shifts up a gear. A very enjoyable whisky which would be perfect as a digestif or as an accompaniment to a dark chocolate based dessert.
Until the next review, have a great week ahead.
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