Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New release - Bowmore 15 years old 'Laimrig'

This whisky is the latest of Bowmore's Laimrig releases.  The Laimrig first appeared in 2009 as an exclusive for Sweden and has been released in annual limited batches ever since.  The name translates as 'pier' from Gaelic and refers to the stone pier of Bowmore harbour, which is next to the distillery on the shores of Loch Indaal.  The Laimrig batches are bottled at cask strength and are predominantly aged in ex-bourbon casks, before being finished for about a year in ex-Oloroso sherry butts.

Bowmore is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland that is still in operation, and the oldest on the famous whisky island of Islay.  It was founded in 1779 by John Simpson. It is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, who have been in control since 1963. They are a subsidiary of the larger Suntory drinks company from Japan, who acquired Morrison Bowmore in 1989. The annual production of the distillery is two million litres. The core range is extensive and expands across local and travel retail markets, making Bowmore one of the biggest selling single malts in the smoky/peaty style.

Bowmore harbour

The 2014 batch of Laimrig has been bottled at the natural cask strength of 54.1% ABV.  It is available now in selected markets and is exclusive in the UK to The Whisky Shop, the UK's largest specialist whisky retail chain.  It can be purchased in any of their 22 stores or via www.whiskyshop.com.  The recommended retail price is £70.

Our tasting notes
The colour is reddish amber and the nose is packed with intense aromas.  It feels initially a little feisty due to the ABV strength but soon settles down.  The nose has a lovely mix of caramel, toasted almonds, dark dried fruits (especially raisins) and ashy bonfire-like peat smoke.  Underneath are hints of cocoa powder and honeycomb.

On the palate, it follows a similar pattern to the nose - it is initially intense and feisty but softens with time in the mouth.  This reveals a good depth of flavours, the first of which are of salted caramel, plump juicy raisins and fiery/ashy peat smoke.  Underneath are distinct notes of milk chocolate and toasted almonds and these add complexity, while late hints of ginger, cinnamon and allspice give a pleasant earthy warmth.  The addition of a few drops of water really brings out the caramel note and pushes it more towards something like creamy toffee or vanilla fudge.  It also dampens the smokiness and wood spices, resulting in a softer and rounded mouth feel.

The finish is warming and very smoky.  The smokiness really seems to come in to its own as the other sweeter and fruitier elements begin to fade away. The drying wood spices also linger as the ash-like smoke smoulders for ages.  The combination gives a slight pleasant bitterness.

What's the verdict?
This is a very good offering from Bowmore.  We have not sampled any of the previous batches of the Laimrig series but this one has plenty to offer.  It is punchy and 'in your face' from the off and even the addition of water never truly calms it.  But we like it because of this and it typifies the rugged earthiness of the island itself.  Laimrig has everything you could want in a smoky whisky.

The high cask strength ABV of the Laimrig may be a bit feisty for a whisky beginner.  If so, we point you in the direction of the Bowmore 15 years old Darkest expression from the core range, which is an exceptionally good and rich smoky whisky.

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