Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review - Bowmore 'Tempest Batch #5'

This whisky is the latest edition single malt in the Tempest series from Bowmore, the oldest distillery on the famous whisky island of Islay.  The series consists of small batch cask strength whisky that has been matured in ex-bourbon casks, and batches are released annually. The original Tempest was released in 2010.  Batch #5 was released worldwide in May of this year and follows on from the previous four batches, which have proved extremely popular and won numerous awards.

As mentioned, Bowmore is the oldest distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay and one of the oldest distilleries in all of Scotland.  Only Glenturret in the highlands is older of those that are still in operation.  Bowmore was founded in 1779 by John Simpson. It is owned by Morrison Bowmore, who have been in control since 1963. They are now part of the larger Beam Suntory drinks company. The annual production of the distillery is two million litres. The core range is extensive and expands across local and travel retail markets – this helps to make Bowmore one of the biggest selling single malts in the smoky/peaty style.

As with previous batches, the Tempest Batch #5 has been aged for 10 years and is bottled at the natural cask strength of 55.9% ABV. It is also non chill-filtered and of natural colour.  The retail price should be around the £50 mark.

Our tasting notes 
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is bursting with sweet and smoky aromas.  There is a lovely initial honey, almost golden syrup, note and this is quickly joined by dusty/earthy peat smoke and plenty of vanilla.  With time some fruity aromas develop - think of dried apricot, blackcurrant cordial and a hint of maraschino cherry.  The combination is excellent.

On the palate, the whisky is immediately hot, spicy and full of peat smoke.  This has the same dusty and earthy feel as on the nose, but also has a feisty peppery heat to it.  As this smoke softens, sweeter and fruitier notes begin to appear and mingle with the peatiness.  There are again plenty of vanilla and honey, and these are backed up by some lovely malty cereal notes.  The fruitiness is again most reminiscent of dried apricot (or maybe peach?) with a hint of bittersweet blackcurrant.   A late hit of warming spices - imagine gingerbread, cinnamon, cloves and liquorice - add further to the depth, as does some tangy candied lemon zest.

The addition of a few drops of water makes the whisky feel creamier and softer.  The spicy smokiness is knocked back and the vanilla and honey-like sweetness comes to the fore.

The finish is long with the earthy smokiness lasting for ages.  This turns a little more ashy as the other sweeter and fruitier elements fade, and the result is drier than expected.  The high ABV also exaggerates the notes present and gives the finish a pleasant heat.

What's the verdict?
This is an excellent whisky from Bowmore and a real return to form for the Tempest series.  The first two batches were very good, before the last two went in a slightly different direction.  It mixes a lovely sweetness and fruitiness with punchy peat smoke, and the combination is great.  This is right up there with Batch #1 in terms of quality and do not be surprised to see it in our Top 10 list for this year.

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