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I found this Batch #3 bottle of Bowmore Tempest at a little mom-and-pop shop on the far south side of Chicago. I’m always on the lookout for liquor stores when driving through unfamiliar neighborhoods, and those rare occasions when I find a little gem alongside the Johnnie Walkers and J&Bs are my motivation for doing so. How semi-limited release whiskies wind up on the shelf at Wally & Flo’s, I’ll never know. (I don’t know if the owners’ names were Wally and Flo, but they sound like liquor-store-owner names more than Percy and Camille.)
I don’t know that I’ve ever had a whisky so balanced between the peat and the sweet. It’s not perfection and nirvana in a bottle, although it’s impressive that the juxtaposition of these flavors works so well. It would probably be an even better dram were it aged a couple more years, but cask strength always helps to compensate for callow youth. Notes based on about the fifth dram from a month-old bottle. For all you burly John Wayne types who like the strong stuff neat, please try at least one dram of the Tempest with a teaspoon of water to unlock the full flavor potential.
Nose: Almost too bold and stinging at first, but after a couple of minutes it goes back and forth between lemony peat and smoky, barbecue peat. Maybe one of the most active noses I’ve sampled, in that there’s something new with every whiff. Oysters and oranges after another few minutes. Pepper, vanilla, and cigars after a few more. An extra-long wait of, say, 20 minutes or more reveals leather, grass, apples, and caramel. Peat and bourbon oak remain constant throughout. A five-star nose all the way.
Palate: Much more one-dimensional than the nose, but I’m not complaining…much. Lots of booze bite at first, even with water. Mostly the same peat profile as on the nose, plus loads of creamy vanilla. Too long on the tongue, however, and some uncomplimentary bitter fruits (over-ripe cherries in particular) emerge, so it takes a sip or two to get the timing just right. This is also the stage wherein the Tempest reveals its immaturity. Another couple of years in the cask might result in something less rough but equally assertive.
Finish: Medium length, a little drying, but not bad. Peat, lemons, saltine crackers, and maybe a touch of canned mixed vegetables. Loud and bold while it lasts.
Each stage of the experience—from nose to palate to finish—may go downhill a bit, but the Tempest remains tempting all through the journey. It may not be “such stuff as dreams are made on,” as Shakespeare said in The Tempest, but it’s good for at least a reverie or two.