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Bowmore 15 Year Old - Darkest

Standing In Front Of A Firing Squad

11 989

@VictorReview by @Victor

1st Mar 2017


Bowmore 15 Year Old - Darkest
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

A reviewer needs to be honest, even when that means attesting to an experience at variance with those of others. As an Apostle of the message of the large degree of batch variation present in many whiskies I never find it strange that the same whisk(e)y can taste great from one bottle and horrid from the next, or that a brand with which one has had horrible prior experiences can surprise one with a delicious bottle. I have seen both effects quite a few times now. So, with slight trepidation I will review a bottle of Bowmore 15 Darkest, owned by my sister, which I have loved since it was first opened. I know two things full well: 1) that in recent years, particularly about 4-5 years ago, there were many much hated batches/bottles of Bowmore Darkest being reviewed, and 2) that many malt lovers have an aversion to most or all Bowmores. I do not have an aversion to Bowmore, even the young ones, but Bowmore has never been a favourite distillery for me. I believe it is the leather note that is what is primarily disliked by most of the Bowmore dislikers. The Bowmores I have liked best have been Tempest 10 yo and The Devil's Cask. I have not yet become an enthusiast of Laimrig, despite having sampled it 2 or 3 times. So, for me, Bowmore is neutral ground, without either a favourable or unfavourable bias. Though I've never tasted Darkest from any other than my sister's bottle, which is being reviewed here, I have no difficulty imaging another batch of this same whisky turning out poorly. We really are on extremely shaky ground commenting on any bottle from which we have not personally drunk. A review is only accurate about the whisky at hand, from the bottle consumed, and at the time at which it is consumed. So, I realise that in writing a positive review for Bowmore 15 Darkest that I may be placing myself in front of a Firing Squad

The reviewed bottle has been open for 4 years and is 20% full. Bowmore Darkest incorporates Sherry finishing in addition to its house style of moderate peating

Nose: extremely well-integrated sherry accompanying typical Bowmore medium peat...in fact the peating level of this bottle is a little stronger than typical Bowmore. The Bowmore leather note is there, though it is discreet. Smoke is present, but light. Brine is noticeable and is well-integrated. This bottle has a great nose. Score: 23.5/25

Taste: very good translation of the nose flavours to the palate, with good intensity. The peat is slightly bitter and slightly sour. The wine flavours frame the peat-brine-malt complex from around the periphery. This old bottle has picked up a little more sour than it had for the first 3 years open. Score: 22/25

Finish: moderately long slow fade-out of all of the flavours. Score: 21/25

Balance: this bottle works, very well on the nose and well in the mouth. Score: 22/25

Total Sequential Score: 88.5/100


Strength: very strong flavours throughout. Score: 23.5/25

Quality: absolutely everything in this bottle is enjoyable. Score: 22/25

Variety: lots of variety. Score: 23/35

Harmony: very good harmony of the parts. Score; 22/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 90.5/100


Comment: I've been drinking from this particular bottle of Darkest for 4 years now, and have loved every single dram I have had of it. For most of that 4 years I would have rated this 2 points higher than I do now, because it has very recently gained a little bit too much undesirable sourness in the mouth. So my word to you readers is: don't judge a Bowmore until you taste it,...and don't be surprised if someone else's bottle tastes better than your bottle does!

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Victor commented

I see that I did not comment on the addition of water to the whisky's flavours.

Water added: 1) raised the pitch in the nose and bundled the flavours. The nose is different but still pleasant with water added. 2) Bundled the palatal flavours, giving a black licorice sort of average flavour. I will seldom use water with Bowmore Darkest.

7 years ago 0

NNWhisky commented

I tried this again recently and was very impressed.

I had been given a Bowmore sample set for a birthday a few years ago and I remember not liking any of it. But my tastes have a changed a little over the years and I now find I quite like the peatier stuff

7 years ago 0

Nozinan commented

I guess an 18 point spread is consistent with batch variation. I revised my review and it was nothing like your experience. I'd be willing to try some of that bottle if it's still around when I see you.

I found mine to be rather on the his side with minimal smell and taste. @NNWhisky , I too tasted it it from a gift set (12,15,18) and I wonder if that might have been a factor.

7 years ago 0

Victor commented

@GoodVintage, I am glad that you enjoyed the review. Familiarity over a period of years with the postings of Connosr members shows that some whiskies polarise a lot. Bowmore, particularly Darkest and all of the Bowmores younger than 15 years old, is high on the list of highly polarising whisky. (Another is Dalwhinnie 15 yo). It is a bit of a diplomatic challenge writing a review when you already know that several of your friends (e.g. @Nozinan, with whom I have tasted several times in person) have already ranted and raved about how they hated a whisky with which you have had good experiences. With Bowmore Darkest I notised that most of the bad reviews were of bottles sold 1-3 years before this particular one which I reviewed and which I like. As I mentioned in the review, above, I can also easily imagine one or more batches of Bowmore Darkest being botched, and repelling drinkers as they have sometimes done in the past. Happily, so far I have not yet encountered any bad-tasting Bowmore 15 Darkest.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

Pierre_W commented

Many thanks for your review, @Victor, that I greatly enjoyed reading (as always). Bowmore Darkest was one of the very first Islay whiskies that I tried about six years ago and I do remember that I was not too much impressed at the time. I prefer the Laimrig expression, which I presume is mostly due to the higher ABV that Laimrig comes with. I did try the second release of Devil's Caks when I was on Islay in 2015 but again was not overly impressed. However, given how much time has elapsed since my first bottle and in view of your rather supportive review I am ready to give it another try. By the way, I had a lot of fun with Bowmore Small Batch that is due to get phased out soon. Only 40% of ABV but much lovely and rounded flavours - worth a try in my view.

7 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Pierre_W, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your supportive comments.

I'll have to get a taste of that Bowmore Select before it disappears from view. Cheers!

7 years ago 0

Victor commented

...whoops, make that Bowmore Small Batch.

7 years ago 0

Ol_Jas commented

This might be the first really positive comment I've seen for that Small Batch. (Not that I've seen tons of negative ones, either—it's not like it's McClellend's Islay!) I could see grabbing one as a bargain bottle sometime. A cheap, simple peater at 40% that you can guiltlessly neck straight from the bottle around a campfire is exactly what you need sometimes. Like when you're sitting around a campfire.

7 years ago 0

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