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Bowmore 15 Year Old - Darkest

Sherry Bonfire

0 687

BReview by @BourbonNorth1

8th Mar 2014


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Bowmore is the oldest distillery on Islay, established a whopping 235 years ago in 1779. It is one of the last distilleries to have its own floor malting (only five other Scottish distilleries still do this), and also has an incredibly unique maturation area, the No.1 Vaults: the oldest maturation warehouse in Scotland, and the only one below sea level. For a distillery that has been producing whisky for so long, Bowmore, and particularly this offering, seems to have a fairly divided audience. There are some glowing reviews and some distinctly less-than-glowing ones, so I was quite interested to try it out for myself.

As a side note, I'm definitely not a fan of e150, nor of chill filtration, both of which are present here. The chill filtration at least is done away with in the cask-strength Laimrig version of this bottling, which I happen to have a bottle of as well- I'm quite interested to see how they stack up when I get around to opening that one.

As far as my experience with this whisky is concerned, I'll not spend much time on the appearance as, in addition to often being a pretty poor gauge of a dram's qualities, it seems kind of pointless in this case since the colour has been altered. It's quite dark, let's leave it at that.

Nose: definite smoke here, but pretty closed initially. Thankfully, even a tiny drop of water opens things up quite well. Initial notes of dried fruit- raisins, dates, sultanas- mingled with toffee sweetness, leading into notes of chocolate and coffee. A hint of bonfire smoke remains present throughout.

Palate: Cedar spice, deep sweet raisins, dark chocolate, fresh figs, and roasted almond praline riding a wash of smoke. The mouthfeel is a little bit thin, but the flavors are strong and, honestly, pretty tasty.

Finish: The finish is the highlight of this whisky in my opinion. Steady and lingering with notes of butterscotch, peach, nuts, dried fruit, and gentle tannins with continued smoke. The smoke persists after the other flavors are gone, practically begging for another sip.

Overall impressions: I definitely weigh in on the side of the argument that enjoys Bowmore Darkest. It definitely needs some water (although as I said even just a drip or two will do it) and some time but given those things it really evolves in the glass and the interplay of malt, sherry, and smoke notes is well maintained and creates some great flavors.

Related Bowmore reviews


Nozinan commented

I think the Laimrig is a completely different beast. I was not so impressed with the 12, 15 and 18 sampled in miniatures but really enjoyed the Laimrig...

9 years ago 0

vanPelt commented

A well written review, BourbonNorth1. I'm also a fan of the Darkest and agree with your synopsis. I never thought of adding water, though-- but I did find the Laimrig needed some. Personally I found my Laimrig nearly identical in character, except stronger and generally better. But my bottle of the new batch is unopened, so let's wait and see.

My perception of the Bowmore divide is that it's partly due to consumerist trends (like the e150 you mentioned) and partly due to the reaction of peat-heads to a lighter smoke than found in some other Islays. (For example the Tempest seems to be winning over both camps.) Then separately, there is also the divide over the Darkest, which is more about the integration of sherry and peat. I've been on both sides of this one.

9 years ago 0

Maltmaniacmate commented

The only Darkest I've tried had an awful sulphur taste (metallic after taste, like tasting burning tinfoil). I loved the combo of peat and sherry, but the extreme measure of sulphur destroyed it for me...

9 years ago 0

hunggar commented

As mentioned, this isn't without its flaws. The Laimrig is better still, but I agree with your score, and your perspective on the coloring. "It's there and we all know it, but let's enjoy the whisky anyway." Good approach. Personally I think it's a wonderful whisky. It's a good dram with a good character. Bowmore is always a bit divisive in itself; more so with the sherry influence. Always glad to hear from another fan. Great review. Keep 'em coming!

9 years ago 0

Pandemonium commented

Great review, although I'm not really a fan of the Darkest expression, I still believe Bowmore has some great malts. A few notes on your intro, Bowmore claims its foundation was in 1779, but they have been unable to back it up properly, so Glenturret, Glen Garioch and Strathisla are probably the oldest active distilleries (sry Littlemill). Bowmore might not even be the oldest on Islay, researchers from the University of Glasgow concluded that Ardbeg is in fact the oldest legal (officially established in 1815)and illegal distillery on the isle. As for the maltings, 2/3 of the malted barley comes from the Port Ellen maltings

9 years ago 0

vanPelt commented

Just following up: I finally did crack open my new Laimrig bottle, and I actually do find it to be different from the previous one that I'd tried. I still think that the Darkest is among its closest kin (as far as malts go) but I could not longer say 'if you like one then you'll like the other' (ditto for dislike). We'll look forward to your review too, @BourbonNorth1

9 years ago 0

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