I was tempted to just open with: ’There’s whisky, and then there’s whisky.’ But that’s oversimplifying an issue that I’ve raised before, Dave Broom raised recently and the honourable Whisky Sponge made his yearly serious post about.
Whisky has changed, is changing and is going to change. There are some fantastic modern whiskies, and, equally, I’m sure there are some atrocious older ones. And the war of words over ‘whisky’s golden age’ and ‘rose-tinted glasses’ continues, with perhaps no better example than Bowmore.
So here’s a modern, and brand new example to warm us up before the big event:
Bowmore 1991 Carn Mor Chairman's Legacy 42.9%
Colour: Light Gold
Nose: Tropical, ashy old Bowmore, pineapple, mango, could be an old Laphroaig! Complex candied lemon, burnt down building. Lovely nose!
Taste: Soft, ashy, very delicate then builds wonderfully! So tropical! So awesome! So complex! Balance is SPOT ON! Smoke still hanging in, perfect oak.
Finish: Medium/Long length. Tropical flavours continue then more ash with very good quality oak.
Bottled 2017 at 26 (the perfect age for Bowmore of course). Bloody good, oh so close to 90. In fact the best Bowmore I’ve had since the famous 1987 Wemyss. I wasn't expecting huge things from this (partly because of the low strength), so it was a great surprise. Rewards large sips. High price of course, at just under £300.
Bowmore, Bowmore, Bowmore… Oh what happened to you?
What did they do so that your tropical fruit never shined again?
What distillation regime did they afflict you with so that your oils fell away at the drop of a hat?
Was the yeast strain the final arrow to your Achilles’ Heel?
Or was it the barley type that struck you unawares?
Oh Bowmore, you shall never be the same again!
Bowmore Bicentenary 1779-1979 43%
Nose: Intoxicating and heady. Compelling is the word. Really very complex, old tropical fruit, this firm old oak and cold damp dunnage like the vaults at Bowmore, ashy, orange and lemon. Balance and complexity with layers. Homemade old limoncello. Old oils, old cupboards, old leather.
Taste: Intense! Smoke, ash, fruity, Seville orange marmalade and candied lemon, pineapple and mango, complex and oily, car motor oil?, so soft and yet powerful, keeps going and going, developing endlessly in the mouth.
Finish: Medium length. Some juicy red apple and then the emotions build. Hits you right in the feels. Old homemade limoncello. Beautiful finish. Goosebumps.
Actually I don’t know if it’s the longest finish ever, or just Medium length. Because even as the flavours ebb away, the Goosebumps stay and stay.
What the hell happened Bowmore? You were making the best whisky in the world!! 94.14 on whiskybase version, with the big black box (for your reference as there are several versions). This was distilled between 1950 and 1966, probably all floor malted too. Originally I wrote 93, but realised that the other whiskies I’d given 93 I hesitated. No hesitation here. This stuff is legendary.
Average Score: 78.6
Distillery Ranking: 16th/64 places
Up/Down: 22>16 (Up 6)
Thanks for reading!
Scotch Reviews #600-#601
Whisky Network Reviews #712-#713
Network Average: 74.6
Best Score: 94
Worst Score: 12
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good
Full Disclosure Disclaimer: I currently work as a Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. You can find more on my scoring here. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and I am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and I am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.