Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New releases > Bowmore Tempest Batch No.3

This whisky is a new limited edition single malt release from the Islay distillery of Bowmore. The Tempest batches are released at cask strength and are matured for 10 years in ex-bourbon casks - 55.6% ABV and first filled casks respectively in the case of this Batch No.3. The two previous batches, hauled in the prizes at various prestigious whisky awards and have built up a cult following of fans. There are 11,000 bottles and they are available worldwide with a suggested price of £50.

Bowmore's Brand Manager Cara Laing comments, “We’ve released a small batch of Bowmore Tempest annually to great response. Every batch is slightly different but always reflects Bowmore’s raw spirit – it’s like tasting a dram straight out of a first fill bourbon cask in our famous No.1 Vaults.

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 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, and has an annual production capacity of two million litres.  It is one of the biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty style.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Tempest Batch No.3 is a pale gold, almost lemon yellow.  However, any thoughts or assumptions that such a pale colour will lead this to be a light, subtle whisky are instantly dispelled by the nose.  The initial aromas are a feisty, 'in your face' combination of lemon zest, spicy chilli and ashy coal smoke.  With time in the glass (and a little persistence) there are softer notes of sweet vanilla, oat cake biscuits, honey,  butterscotch and gentle sweet damp earthy moss.  There is also a slightly savoury, almost meaty barbeque note.  On the palate, a similar thing happens - it is initially assertive and powerful with plenty of alcohol and notes of hot chilli spice, lemon zest and medicinal smoke hitting the taste buds, before softening to reveal a lovely combination of flavours.  These show the classiness of the whisky and add excellent depth and complexity.  Sweetness comes from notes of honey, toffee, vanilla and that damp, earthy moss from the nose, while some bittersweet cereals, oat cake biscuits and lemon sherbet add balance and a pleasant tang.  The finish is long, lingering and a little hot (think of the chillis again), with the prominent peat smoke fading and leaving distinct notes of burnt biscuit, honey and a hint of dried grass.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely whisky and a good example of the smoky, peaty style.  It is initially powerful but this gives way to be a well balanced and complex dram.  The high ABV suggests adding water and this will certainly bring it within more consumers taste boundaries - it softens the initial 'blow' and makes the palate creamier with the honey and toffee notes knocking the smokiness and zestiness back a bit.  However, we like the refreshing zesty/sherbet kick and the way that the softer notes develop. 

It is only natural to want to compare this to the previous two batches but they were richer and some of our favourite ever whiskies, so it is a little unfair.  This is good but in a different way and with different characteristics - click the links to read our previous reviews of Batch No.1 and Batch No.2.

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