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This has been my Christmas Staple whisky for the last few years so I know it well. Hence, it has been sat in the glass for an hour before I've even gone near it - Bowmore needs to breathe more than most.
Also, I know the official tasting notes almost by heart so in the interests of impartiality and honesty, I'm trying to blank them out as I taste this, LOL.
The nose is ripe red fruits and berries, with honey. A touch of lemon wafting in. Definitely raisins with a rich chewy edge. The fruity richness reminds me why I've always thought of this as the Christmas malt. Smokiness has never been too apparent for me on the nose. It's a wisp in the background, if there at all.
Rich honey-glazed ripe plums and dates dominate the initial palate. Dry smokiness then finally makes an appearance. Sweet honey and lemon on the second sip giving in to dark stewed fruits and blackberries. Quite a 'sticky' malt
The finish has always been what I remember best of this however and that is the cigar smoke nasal waft, with a drying palate.
I first tasted this about 6 years ago and was absolutely blown away. However, I was more of a novice back then, and palates and styles evolve. I have subsequently tried a plethora of cask-strength non-chill filtered whiskies. Whilst I still find the overall flavour of this really nice it is lacking body - 46% with non-chill filtration could be a really good move.
And I've not even drawn upon the E150a argument which I know was discussed in a review a day or two back. To the distiller's at Bowmore I have a plea - please remove this caramel rubbish now! I don't care if you rename it Bowmore 15 "Not quite as Dark as it once was but still darker than the 12" - I'd still drink it. The potential is really amazing, but it just kind of needs a bit of naturalising.
I'd have marked this at about 95 just 2-3 years ago. But as said I've tried a lot of straight-from-the-cask style whiskies since then and this really is starting to taste a bit too tampered with. Still, it remains pleasant and highly drinkable though.
Merry Christmas Everyone.