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Bowmore 12 Year Old Enigma

Average score from 4 reviews and 33 ratings 82

Bowmore 12 Year Old Enigma

Product details

  • Brand: Bowmore
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 40.0%
  • Age: 12 year old

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Bowmore 12 Year Old Enigma

As soon as I heard this Bowmore 12 Enigma was going to be replaced by the NAS Black Rock, I decided to look for one. Compared to the normal 12yo, a higher percentage of sherry matured Bowmore was used in this version so a whole liter for €40,- felt like a great deal.

Nose: Blueberry muffin, flower honey, dried fruit, big old oak, barley, vanilla, brown sugar, tart lemon, furniture polish and just a tiny wiff of peat smoke somewhere in the back. There is a nice unexpected developement too, after 10 minutes its different. Less fruity, more serious.

Palate: soft, very clean arrival, slowly the flavors pop up one by one and get together for a nice glowing mid-palate sensation. First I get the sweet fruity bubblegum and flowery notes and later the darker side shows up with musky old wood, tar, coals, smoke and overripe peach, warm forest fruit and toasted almonds and pecans. Its on the sweet side first, but gets dryer as soon as the musky wood comes in. The citric and vanilla notes from the bourbon casks are constantly battling for recognition with the dominant sherry cask flavors, but it works. Very much in balance. The peat is nicely interwoven and gives everything a nice roasted edge.

Finish: Dry and with a comfortable glowing zing. Medium length with bitter oak, wet smoke, ash and fresh peat flavors.

Hmmm that was fun! Its not a very difficult or complex malt, but all the flavors inside get a place to shine eventually. Its very fruity, almost candy like, but also the peat journey in this is interesting: almost nothing in the nose, in balance on the palate, dominant in the finish.

I'm a sucker for Peated spirit Sherry cask combinations and even tho its friendly character, this one certainly didn't dissapoint. To be honest, I really liked it and it made me think of the Nikka Yoichi NAS a bit.

..and also here, very well done, thanks for the review @PeatyZealot


If you’re not a fan of Bowmore’s house style; you’ll probably hate this. If you’re not a fan of peat/sherry marriages; you’ll probably hate this. I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there who could never be fans of this whisky. Admittedly, this is a loud, obvious, uninhibited, and unsophisticated addition to the peat/sherry family. But if you can handle the style and you don’t mind a lack of nuance, then go ahead and pour yourself a dram. For contrast’s sake I’m sipping the Enigma side-by-side with its older brother, the Darkest.

Nose: Here we have Bowmore’s signature gentle peat and smoke mixed with a very sweet, candied sherry. Maraschino cherries, red licorice, strawberry syrup, and a sweet, light caramel. There’s also leather, salt, cinnamon, praline, and toffee. There is an oak note here, but it can’t compare to the deep, rich woodiness that one gets from the nose of the Darkest. Very sweet and gently smoky, but not very subtle or complex.

Palate: Very much a continuation of the nose, but with stronger peat. The peat and sherry come on simultaneously, however they don’t seem to intersect. Candy flavours are here; once again giving us maraschino cherries, licorice, and strawberry syrup. Meanwhile the peat continues to offer salt, leather, and praline.

Finish: The smoke takes the lead here. There’s a lingering tobacco note, and those maraschino cherries persist. Salt and light caramel. Some drying oak comes in, but it’s not the strong, rich oak presence that I enjoy so much in the Darkest.

Unsurprisingly, this pales in comparison to its older brother. Not only is the Enigma more “candied,” but it has a lower abv, less complexity, less depth, less integration of flavours, and less of that beautiful, dark, rich woodiness that I love about the Darkest. Also, both the peat and sherry are very loud in this dram, so there’s little subtlety or nuance to be found. Finally, it lacks integration. The sherry and peat seem to be working apart from one another; the flavours never really seem to intersect or interact. Indeed, this is far from being the best combination of peat and sherry.

So why, then, do I still like this? Well for one thing it’s cheap, and it’s sold in a 1L bottle. More importantly; it’s a good casual sipper if you’re a fan of the style. This is my go-to dram when I want something from the peat/sherry family tree, but I don’t feel the need to analyze or indulge. This is the perky, cheery, dimwitted cheerleader of the genre. Not very deep, but attractive, fun, harmless, and sweet.

Ha! Oh god, it's such a shame that certain reviews like this one didn't (apparently) get the audience they deserved! Well done; I never had this one, but I feel like this answered my questions about it. Cheerleaders indeed...

@vanPelt, I agree with you. This is an excellent review. Great descriptive detail. Thanks, @hunggar!

I kind of get a kick out of how much Bowmore divides people. Soooo many people hate Bowmore...soooo many people like, even love, Bowmore. @hunggar almost takes his life into his hands by even admitting that he likes Bowmore Darkest 15 YO.


Would have liked something a little more bold and exciting but it wasn't to be. Surprisingly sweet on the nose for an Islay and unfortunately a bit unremarkable. The nose had touches of honeyed raisins with a hint of oaky leather. The palate was much nicer as it introduced itself with subtle vanilla and caramel. The finish brought with it something woody. Something that felt like star anise. I'm in a good mood. I would drink this again.


Bowmore is the captial of Islay, but it's not at all a big place. The distillery, however, is not only the largest on the island, but also the oldest, founded in 1779. The spirit is used for the blends King Pride, Clan Roy, Black Bottle and Islay Legend. But there are of course quite a few bottlings as single malts.

This expression, the 12 Year Old Enigma, is to be found in a 1 litre bottle, since it's only available in the traval retail segment.

The color is a full gold, almost Old Sauternes and rather oily.

The nose is a sweet mix of caramel and the obligatory peat, but very soft peat indeed. It's not dominant at all. It's smells a bit like new car tyres. There is some salt, neatly packed in sweet sherry with honey. Even a little orange liquer. Think Cointreau, but softer. Leave it a while and you'll smell more of the wood. Very interesting and attractive. It's hard to stop smelling this one.

The first swallow... whoa! A kick in the teeth, truly. Halfway through it dries the mouth and becomes quite smokey, followed immediately with some sweet fruits and sherry. This dram is so rich, you can almost chew it!

The finish is long with the peat playing first violin again. Completely balanced dram in my book.

I'll be going abroad soon. I'll be on the lookout for this one in the duty free shop.

Hi LeFrog, it's a procedure called 'tinting', they add caramel to give it a nicer look. I'm not for it, but many brands to this. Sometimes whiskymakers also add caramel to very young whisky that hasn't received 'enough color' from the casks yet.

Hear, hear. I'm told the adding of caramel for aesthetic purposes does nothing to the taste.

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