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Bowmore 15 Darkest is so far the most difficult bottle that I have reviewed. It is aged in American bourbon casks, and then in oloroso sherry casks, and is an offering from a minority group of assertive whiskies, in which both a smoke and a sherry component each holds its own … the word “hint” does not apply here. HP 12 is in the fringes of this category, but is gentle and sophisticated compared to Bowmore.
Bottle Nose: Deep fruit, raisons and chocolate … a classic sherry signature.
Glass Nose: A unique oily petroleum smokiness which reminds me of a factory, auto shop or asphalt.
Palate: Lovely, sweet, lively and complex fruity opening … and then the dominating smoky fog rolls in and takes over until the next sip. The unique petroleum type of smoke seems consistent with the nose and with other Bowmore expressions. All tasted without water.
Finish: The smoke continues and becomes dry and sour, with hints of grapefruit. The finish is medium and quite satisfying, and the taste from the pungent sour smoke lingers forever.
Conclusion: At a sensory level, what I (usually) notice most is the somewhat unpleasant type of oily smoke, and moreover, that the lovely sherry experience and the smokiness (usually) do not intermingle, and they do not seem to compliment each other. First you are served the tantalizing sherry, and then the oily smoke … and finally you leave with dry and sour desert.
Bowmore Darkest is hard to get to know. For a long time I did not care for this crude and industrial style of peat/smoke; it is different from all the other Islays that I have tasted. And though I still have problems with the smoky part, each tasting is often different from the last. This bottle is always engaging, never boring and always provides an adventure. Over several months Bowmore Darkest has grown to fill a niche in my cabinet … there is really nothing else like it, and it hardly fits in anywhere. Though not at all a goto malt, it is a good choice when I am wanting something different and wildly interesting. So with this redeeming character, I’m beginning to feel that I might miss this distinctive sweet and sour renegade when it is gone … and I might just pick up a replacement bottle. Maybe @dbk will have the rest of his bottle up for sale :-)
Be sure to also see @dbk’s somewhat confirming review, along with additional insights and meaningful differences.
Score: 83/100 (the score includes a few points for its engaging uniqueness)