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Bowmore 15 Darkest has certainly gone through some changes in the time (about two months) since my bottle’s been opened. Waxy, acidic, and sulfur-y at first, it’s now softened up with a nicely balanced sweet-and-smoky profile. It also has more layers than a James Joyce novel and more surprises than a talking dog.
This whisky is aged for 12 years in American bourbon oak, and then finished for three years in Oloroso sherry casks. The result is a Scotch with abundant flavors – so many, in fact, that it’s a challenge to keep track of them as they evolve. I like this one both neat (for more flavors and a smokier bite) and with a drop of water (for smoothness, sherry, and caramel).
Nose: Fresh sea air overrides everything; a dozen other aromas make fleeting appearances the longer it sits. Dark chocolate, toffee, and a slight floral note at first. A slightly unpleasant meaty smokiness arrives soon thereafter. It has all the rich barbeque sweetness reminiscent of a good Laphroaig, but it also has an off component that reminds me of Liquid Smoke (and if you’ve ever used too much Liquid Smoke in cooking, you’ve probably tried to repress the memory).
Thankfully, the Liquid Smoke never intrudes too much, and the smoke component turns more phenolic and peaty after a few minutes. Things also turn very sweet, with plenty of caramel, sherry, and a big fruit basket. Twenty minutes on and there’s still surprises to be discovered. I can’t say I like everything this nose has to offer, but I’m certainly entertained every step of the way.
Palate: The sweetness foreshadowed by the nose takes a moment to arrive. Wood, bitter tea, and salted almonds at first. Five seconds later, it’s a chocolate-covered cherry that’s been soaking for an hour in a glass of sherry. Quite delicious and articulate at this stage.
The finish is hearty but smooth, reasonably long, dominated by licorice-y peat and malt. There’s that damn Liquid Smoke again at the tail end. Take a wee sip of water after about 40 seconds to avoid this.
I’ll admit to being a little confused by Bowmore 15. I’m enjoying it, but its many twists and turns make it a tough one to pin down. Recommended for those who like a dram to be a roller-coaster experience.