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Nose: When appropriately cold, like smelling a slightly smoky and very dark chocolate candy: with wafts of toffee vanilla, cinnamon, cedar, and dark cherry. When a tad warm, like a pig on an island spit-- ham roasting over a pile of cedar and lighter fluid. Unless you are actually at such a bacony beachside barbecue, you should make precautions to enjoy this on the cooler side. Give it plenty of time to breath before indulging.
Palate: Most prominent is lightly smoking cedar, combined with sour cherry. You can imagine plums and a little clove as well. Breathing time seems to improve balance and bring out more toffee notes.
Finish: Undertones of dark cherry, and on the exhale some great enhancing sweet smoke and nutmeg. Cedar re-emerges and lingers, over some fading sherry-fruit.
I bought this after sampling and declaring it (at that point) my favorite scotch: easily drinkable and wonderfully complex in combining sherry and slight peat. But a few months later, I was tasting and struggling to find what had enamored me in the first place. The flavors seemed out of harmony-- Still complex in their fight, but much less enjoyable. (I think this dichotomy is also clear in other mixed reviews here.) Luckily, I realized that this scotch is quite sensitive to temperature: Avoid too much heat, which creates clashing saltiness and starts the whole rancid battle. Of course, I'm not suggesting to freeze it!-- At just cooler than room temperature, it is absolutely delightful and the sweetness effect plays to an advantage. Of course, I had originally tasted this in Edinburgh during "normal" weather there (< 15 Celsius at the time), and the bottle could not have been too much warmer.
This has nothing to do with the other Bowmores I reviewed (15-Mariner and 17); it is fruitier and has more cedar character. To boldy contrast this with the popular Uigeadail (another sherry & peat combination), the Darkest is less ash and vanilla, but is woodier and more fruit-forward.