Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New release - Bowmore 1985 Vintage

A couple of weeks ago we reported in our weekly Inbox feature that the Bowmore distillery had announced the release of two new whiskies in its limited edition series of vintages. The two were distilled in 1964 and 1985, and both were hand selected by Bowmore's Distillery Manager Eddie MacAffer. Both expressions follow in the footsteps of similar award winning releases and are available globally from specialist whisky retailers.

Well, shortly after that a small sample of the 1985 Vintage popped through our letterbox. The whisky has been created by combining an ex-sherry and an ex-bourbon casks, both distilled and casked in 1985. It has also been released at the natural cask strength of 52.3% ABV and is limited to just 727 bottles with a recommended retail price of £300. This release is presented in the regular Bowmore bottle but with an accompanying wooden casket which includes features such as a leather strap with a copper buckle and a certificate signed by Eddie MacAffer.

The Bowmore distillery is located on the famous whisky making island of Islay (pronounced eye-la), which lies off the west coast of Scotland. It is the oldest distillery on the island, having been founded in 1779 by John Simpson.  This also makes it one of the oldest distilleries in the whole of Scotland.  Bowmore 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 core range of Bowmore single malts is extensive and the annual production capacity of the distillery is two million litres.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a vibrant golden yellow and the nose exhibits some very promising initial aromas. There is a wonderful combination of sweet vanilla, icing sugar and honey, delicate fresh fruits (think of pear, apple and a hint of peach) and soft peat smoke (imagine dry dusty earth and grass).  With time a distinct aroma of parma violet sweets comes through, as does a hint of coal tar soap and salty brine.

On the palate, this whisky feels superb and mouth coating.  It feels opulent and has a vibrant edge.  The fresh fruit notes from the nose are immediately evident, especially the green pear and apple ones.  These combine well with some notes of soft brown sugar, sweet runny honey and plenty of vanilla, which particularly enhances the soft creamy feeling on the palate.  The distinctive note of parma violet sweets is there and again increases with time - this particular note is a characteristic almost unique to Bowmore whiskies above a certain age.  The soft, earthy peat smoke is the last thing to reveal itself and has a pleasant hint of bitterness to it.  There is also the tiniest hint of salty tang right at the end.

The smokiness may appear towards the end of the palate but it is during the finish that it really comes alive, outlasting nearly everything else.  The sweeter and the fruity elements lead the way, but as they fade the smokiness shines through wonderfully and extends the drinking experience beyond expectations.

What's the verdict?
The Bowmore 1985 Vintage is an excellent whisky and one that maintains the award winning high standards of the previous releases in this series.  The 1980s were clearly a good decade at Bowmore!  The nose is gorgeous and highly perfumed, the palate delivers what the nose builds up and more, while the finish is deliciously long with the smokiness coming to the fore.  It is a whisky that reminds us why Bowmore is one of our favourite distilleries.  We would say that it is worth every penny of £300 for a bottle of whisky of this undoubted quality ... now we just have to start saving up!

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