Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New release - Bowmore Small Batch Reserve

The Small Batch Reserve is a new limited edition single malt release from the famous Islay distillery of Bowmore.  The whisky is a combination of first-fill and second-fill ex-bourbon casks, which have then been brought together for an extended marrying period to create further complexity. The Small Batch Reserve is also the first new whisky to be released under the stewardship of new Master Blender Rachel Barrie, who describes it as, "a perfect and harmonious version of Bowmore".

The Bowmore distillery is located on the shores of Loch Indaal on the well known whisky island of Islay, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. Bowmore was founded in 1779 by John Simpson, making it the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on the island (and one of the oldest of all in Scotland). The word Bowmore translates as 'sea rock' from Gaelic. It is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, and has an annual production capacity of two million litres. Bowmore is one of the world's biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty category.

Despite only being released in May, the Small Batch Reserve has already picked up its first award by bagging a 'Master', which is the highest accolade at The Spirit Business Scotch Whisky Masters 2012.  It is bottled at 40% ABV and is available now in selected specialist whisky retailers, with a recommended price of £32.99.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a light golden yellow and the nose has warm and soft aromas.  There is an initial heavy whiff of woody bonfire smoke that instantly indicates that this is a classic Islay whisky. This is followed by a lovely floral note which is reminiscent of a feminine perfume, plus  sweet notes of honey, vanilla, and marshmallow.  It is quite uplifting and vibrant with some papaya and a hint of liquorice developing with time in the glass.

On the palate this is fresh, light and surprisingly delicate.  It is initially very sugary with notes of icing sugar and marshmallow prominent. Then come some distinct malty cereal grains, that floral perfume note again and some vanilla and honey characteristics, which give a bit of depth to the flavour profile. Finally there is plenty of oaky, woody dryness coupled with soft, gentle bonfire smoke with a slightly acrid peaty/earthy edge.  Overall, the promise and interest of the nose seems to not quite be fulfilled.

For the finish the majority of the flavours, especially the sweeter ones, disappear before you know it.  However, it is the pleasant smoky character that hangs around and takes a little longer to fade.

What's the verdict?
This is not an overly complicated whisky, but there is nothing wrong with that and it is quite enjoyable.  It seems very delicate for an Islay whisky and those who like heavier smoky whiskies or the richer expressions of Bowmore's with some ex-sherry cask influence may be disappointed. The nose is quite expressive but the palate doesn't quite convey this and is slightly underwhelming, while the finish is on the short-ish side.

What it does offer is an alternative to these heavier Islay smoky whiskies and also good value for money - we may have found our smoky whisky for warm weather and its simplicity and freshness makes the Small Batch Reserve feel very Summery.  It is lovely over some ice, which backs this up.

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