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Fellow Connosr member AboutChoice and I decided to write independent reviews of the Bowmore 15 year-old Darkest and post them simultaneously. For his unique perspective on this whisky, please see his charming review.
In a recent blog post (dramming.com/2010/10/…), Oliver Klimek laments the loss of the smoky sherried (Scotch) whisky. Once commonplace, he argues its disappearance among Scotch whiskies is due to simple economic factors. As he notes, however, ‘very recently we have seen the pendulum swinging back in Scotland’. Among those riding the pendulum is the Bowmore distillery, whose 15 year-old ‘Darkest’ expression is both peated—as is the Bowmore way—and matured for three years in Oloroso sherry casks, after twelve in the standard ex-bourbon barrels.
The nose on the Bowmore 15 year-old Darkest is wound up tight. The smoke is extremely dry, with the sherry notes coming through beneath; it is less a medley than a tug-of-war between two competing scents. Alongside the sherry and smoke is a healthy whiff of salt, some iodine, and a dose of caramel.
Like the nose, the palate reveals a very dry, woody smoke, much like pine needles in the dead of summer. There is also malt, caramel, and a subtle sherry, accompanied by some orange and clove. The smoke rises again on the finish, again with sherry beneath, trailing both heat and saline.
The Bowmore 15 year-old Darkest is a fine dram, but it’s not especially sophisticated. While reasonably interesting—and strikingly salty—there remains a disappointing lack of integration between the peat and the sherry. It's less of a marriage of these two elements and more mere cohabitation. A worthwhile take on the sherried, smoky Scotch whisky, perhaps, but not the stuff of legends.