Saturday, November 12, 2011

Have just tried > Bowmore 18 years old

The Bowmore 18 years old is a premium single malt whisky in the core range of the well known Islay distillery. It was first released in 2007, when it replaced the popular 17 years old version. The whisky is bottled at an alcoholic strength of 43% ABV and uses a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks for the maturation. It can be purchased in specialist whisky retailers, Duty Free/travel retail and the occasional larger supermarket for around £75 a bottle.

As mentioned, the Bowmore distillery is located on the famous whisky island of Islay, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. Islay is well known for producing the smoky, peaty style of whisky. Bowmore was founded in 1779 by John Simpson, making it the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on Islay and one of the oldest in all of Scotland. The distillery is located on the shores of inland sea loch Loch Indaal and the name of Bowmore translates as 'sea rock' from Gaelic. The distillery in currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, who also own the two other Scottish distilleries at Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch. Bowmore has an annual production capacity of two million litres and is one of the biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty style.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a dark gold with a hint of amber. The nose is pleasantly scented and full of perfumed aromas. There are lovely sweet notes of honey, brown sugar and dark dried fruits, especially raisin. The softness continues with aromas of vanilla, oatcake biscuits and sweet earthy peat smoke. This sweetness is balanced by some pleasant, more bitter notes - there is a gentle whiff of ashy bonfire, something slightly acrid which is reminiscent of coal tar soap, a hint of sea salt and a lovely note of spiced orange zest.

On the palate this whisky is again soft and sweet at the beginning. A delicious combination of notes - sweet fudge, caramel, dark dried fruits (raisins again, plus sultanas) and a good dollop of honey – make this appear warming and very classy. Depth and balance is again added by delicate, soft and sweet peat smoke, which has a slight yet pleasant acidity to it towards the finish. This occurs as the smokiness becomes more ashy, rather than peaty/earthy, with time. The fantastic note of spiced orange zest is also there (think of thick cut marmalade), as is a subtle hint of parma violet sweets – a signature note that gives away older Bowmore whiskies.

The finish is long with the sweeter characteristics fading in to a gentle, drying ashy smokiness that lingers for ages.  The bittersweet orange note is not as prominent but adds tang and bite.

What's the verdict?
This is an excellent whisky and one that is a great all-rounder.  It has a lovely and almost perfect  combination of richness, smokiness and complexity, without going too far in any direction.  The Bowmore 18 years old has won numerous awards since its release to back this up.  If you like the smoky style of whisky, then you should try this.  If you don't, then you should still try it as it demonstrates how peat/smoke can be incorporated and balanced with other elements.  It is soft, velvety and classy and well worth splashing out the extra cash for.

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