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Bowmore 15 Year Old - Darkest

Flavours that almost work together

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@hunggarReview by @hunggar

28th Jan 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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I was excited about trying this one. I was told by some online reviews as well as some friends that this was something I would like. I enjoy Islay whiskies, but I have been looking for a lightly peated whisky that is rich, sherried, but doesn't hit you like a ton of bricks. As with most collectors, I want a range of whiskies to both offer to guests and to enjoy for myself. The light honeyed ones, the rich sherried ones, the smokey peated ones, etc. But I have yet to find a great whisky that marries peat and sherry for a reasonable price. I was hoping this one was it. It almost is.

On paper, it has everything I was hoping for. It's a Bowmore, so we know that it will be peated without being a "peat monster." It's 15 years old, which suggests a somewhat mature dram with a bit of youthful vitality. Three of those years were spent in a sherry cask, which suggests as certain level of fruity richness. It's got all of the elements needed to be that perfect dram to offer a sherry lover who wants to gently venture into Islay territory, or vice-versa. It's good, but it does seem to fall short in some areas.

I'm ranting. Here we go.

Nose: Smoke, a bit of chocolate, and a faint hint of fruits. The fruits could be more prominent, though.

Palate: Cedar, a hint of pine, oak. Certainly a lot of woody flavours here; I feel like I'm drinking a forest (in a good way). The spices and fruits come through next, with some ever-present smoke worked in there as well. I wish the sherry flavours had more time to spread there wings right about now. Seems like there's some untapped richness here, but it flies by all too quickly between the wooden blast and the smokey finish. I do get some cherry flavours, some red apple, and some zesty spice, but they're all a bit too fleeting.

Finish: Dry, with smoke, dark cherries, and tannin.

I'm afraid my search for the pefect marriage between sherry and peat must go on. Certainly there's an abundance of whiskies I have yet to try that may fit the bill. I was hoping I'd found it in the Bowmore Darkest, but sadly I haven't. The elements are all there, but I feel like the flavours never really marry, but instead end up competing for my attention. The peatiness tends to win out most of the time. I find myself having to sift through two competing flavours that never truly work together. Sidenote: Feel free to message me or reply to this review if you have any suggestions (ones that aren't extravagantly priced, if you please).

Overall it's not a bad whisky, but it just doesn't seem to fit the bill. Also, while it wasn't too expensive, there are certainly better whiskies out there that cost less. Cheers.

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Rigmorole commented

I agree. I tasted it in a restaurant and was not overly impressed. The plain 15 year is much better (not darkest). Thanks for your review.

6 years ago 0

hunggar commented

Thanks. Any suggestions for a whisky that marries peat and sherry successfully would be appreciated. :-)

6 years ago 0

michaelschout commented

There's always the Ardbeg Uigeadail. It may be a little stronger than what you're looking for but most people consider it one of the more perfect examples of a sherry/peat marriage.

6 years ago 0

Rigmorole commented

Personally, I've found that heavy peat as a dominant note doesn't really mix well with sherry. It's nice if the sherry or some other flavor is dominant and the peat and smoke are dialed down, but when the peat and smoke take center stage, the sherry seems to clash.

Yes, many love Uigedail, but I'm not a huge fan. I put water in mine for sure when I have a glass, which is once in a while at a good bar. Wine casks can be nice with heavy peat and smoke, potentially more so than sherry. The third release of Bruichladdich's mega-peated whisky Octomore was finished in casks from Chateau Petrus. It's a peaty beast with hints of cherry and stewed fruit. I've never tasted it. It's hard to find and I'm not shelling out the bucks to buy a bottle without having a taste of it first. When I drink heavy peated whisky, I lean towards other types of casks than sherry.

Then again, I don't drink the heavy peat all that often. It seems even less healthy than regular whiskies, which is saying something. I pay attention to my body and I often feel a little green around the gills after drinking a glass or two of whisky with fairly high phenol parts per million. Sorry to be a "buzz kill" about heavy peat and smoke but it's like breathing pollution filled air and paying top dollar to do it. Yes, the flavor can be charming, but it's still pollution. I taste hints of diesel smoke and creosote in Ardbeg. That doesn't mean those things are in it, but whatever is tastes pretty "industrial" to me.

I'll take a glass of ethereally magical Glenfarclas 25 over the dram-packed phenols any day. . . then again, sometimes I feel like getting "down and dirty." Whenever I do, I don't mix sherry bombs with peat beasties. Of course, watch me change my mind when I get a dram that makes it happen well at some point in the future ; )

Just my three cents. . . .

6 years ago 0

hunggar commented

I noticed you made a similar point on your Ardbeg 10 vs. Coal Ila review the other day. I have to agree. I don't dislike Ardbeg (you're not allowed to in the whisky world!), but it's not a favorite. I have tried the Corryvrecken and the 10, but not the Uigeadail. The Uigeadail seems to be universally praised, so that's certainly on the wishlist. Point is, I agree with the "diesel" and "industrial" descriptions you used in reference to Ardbeg. Those flavours do seem to shine through more in Ardbeg releases. Other peated whiskies seem to maintain a more mossy/campfire natural-ish peat flavour. Ardbeg is certainly a quality whisky, but like you, I consider it something to be enjoyed from time to time.

Wine casks, huh? Hadn't thought of that. I'm not looking specifically for sherry, so wine casks might be the best place to look for a fruity/spicy whisky with a nice peat kick. I'll have to keep my eyes open for those. Cheers.

6 years ago 0

Rigmorole commented

You might consider making your own "vatting" which is the mix of single malt scotches that you do yourself. Ralfy recommends 3 parts A'bundah and 1 part Uigedail. That vatting certainly intrigues me.

As I've said, I enjoy different proportions of Caol Ila and Talisker. The two go very well together. You could add a third sherry cask whisky to create the combination of peat, smoke, and sherry.

A triple vatting is not unusual. For the third whisky, I think an A'bundah would be a great choice. A sherry casked Glendronach might also go well as a third, along with Caol Ila and Talisker.

I have mixed Arran Sherry Cask (high alchohol content) with Caol Ila and Talisker with a nice vatting effect. I must say that I'm not crazy about the Arran, however. I did this vatting, on and off, for about a month. The percentages varied depending upon my mood. Usually, I would pour all three into a separate littler bottle and let the admixture sit and intermingle for a few days before drinking it.

6 years ago 0

hunggar commented

You're quite the chemist! I've actually never tried "vatting," but perhaps it's something I should get into. I'd be concerned that the peat would overwhelm the sherry notes. You'd need to get the proportions just right. Good call on the A'bunadh. If there's a sherry bomb out there that could stand up against the Islay blasters it's the A'bunadh, with it's richness and added alcohol kick. I'm intrigued. I'll have to work on getting my hands on the ingredients. Thanks!

5 years ago 0

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