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Bowmore 15 Year Old - Darkest

Average score from 25 reviews and 87 ratings 85

Bowmore 15 Year Old - Darkest

Product details

  • Brand: Bowmore
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 43.0%
  • Age: 15 year old

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@Victor
Bowmore 15 Year Old - Darkest

A reviewer needs to be honest, even when that means attesting to an experience at variance with those of others. As an Apostle of the message of the large degree of batch variation present in many whiskies I never find it strange that the same whisk(e)y can taste great from one bottle and horrid from the next, or that a brand with which one has had horrible prior experiences can surprise one with a delicious bottle. I have seen both effects quite a few times now. So, with slight trepidation I will review a bottle of Bowmore 15 Darkest, owned by my sister, which I have loved since it was first opened. I know two things full well: 1) that in recent years, particularly about 4-5 years ago, there were many much hated batches/bottles of Bowmore Darkest being reviewed, and 2) that many malt lovers have an aversion to most or all Bowmores. I do not have an aversion to Bowmore, even the young ones, but Bowmore has never been a favourite distillery for me. I believe it is the leather note that is what is primarily disliked by most of the Bowmore dislikers. The Bowmores I have liked best have been Tempest 10 yo and The Devil's Cask. I have not yet become an enthusiast of Laimrig, despite having sampled it 2 or 3 times. So, for me, Bowmore is neutral ground, without either a favourable or unfavourable bias. Though I've never tasted Darkest from any other than my sister's bottle, which is being reviewed here, I have no difficulty imaging another batch of this same whisky turning out poorly. We really are on extremely shaky ground commenting on any bottle from which we have not personally drunk. A review is only accurate about the whisky at hand, from the bottle consumed, and at the time at which it is consumed. So, I realise that in writing a positive review for Bowmore 15 Darkest that I may be placing myself in front of a Firing Squad

The reviewed bottle has been open for 4 years and is 20% full. Bowmore Darkest incorporates Sherry finishing in addition to its house style of moderate peating

Nose: extremely well-integrated sherry accompanying typical Bowmore medium peat...in fact the peating level of this bottle is a little stronger than typical Bowmore. The Bowmore leather note is there, though it is discreet. Smoke is present, but light. Brine is noticeable and is well-integrated. This bottle has a great nose. Score: 23.5/25

Taste: very good translation of the nose flavours to the palate, with good intensity. The peat is slightly bitter and slightly sour. The wine flavours frame the peat-brine-malt complex from around the periphery. This old bottle has picked up a little more sour than it had for the first 3 years open. Score: 22/25

Finish: moderately long slow fade-out of all of the flavours. Score: 21/25

Balance: this bottle works, very well on the nose and well in the mouth. Score: 22/25

Total Sequential Score: 88.5/100

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Strength: very strong flavours throughout. Score: 23.5/25

Quality: absolutely everything in this bottle is enjoyable. Score: 22/25

Variety: lots of variety. Score: 23/35

Harmony: very good harmony of the parts. Score; 22/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 90.5/100

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Comment: I've been drinking from this particular bottle of Darkest for 4 years now, and have loved every single dram I have had of it. For most of that 4 years I would have rated this 2 points higher than I do now, because it has very recently gained a little bit too much undesirable sourness in the mouth. So my word to you readers is: don't judge a Bowmore until you taste it,...and don't be surprised if someone else's bottle tastes better than your bottle does!

I see that I did not comment on the addition of water to the whisky's flavours.

Water added: 1) raised the pitch in the nose and bundled the flavours. The nose is different but still pleasant with water added. 2) Bundled the palatal flavours, giving a black licorice sort of average flavour. I will seldom use water with Bowmore Darkest.

This might be the first really positive comment I've seen for that Small Batch. (Not that I've seen tons of negative ones, either—it's not like it's McClellend's Islay!) I could see grabbing one as a bargain bottle sometime. A cheap, simple peater at 40% that you can guiltlessly neck straight from the bottle around a campfire is exactly what you need sometimes. Like when you're sitting around a campfire.

@TheConscience

Oh boy. There is something off key about this one...

Nose: fruity peat, ash, something vomitous. Ya, sherry-barf might be an accurate descriptor.

Palate: the fruit dominates. Red fruit, sherry, and sugars. The peat is nowhere to be found.

Finish: initially a nice sugar and spice combination, with a vegetal undercurrent. With a little more time the finish became ghoulish. Rotting leaves and stewed fruit. About as appetizing as it sounds.

This triggered me to pull out my reserved sample of my first bottle (from 2+ years ago). First of all, yes, it was better colder-- and got worse warming in my hand. Secondly, I think that "barf" you describe is what I called cedar-- quite a strong cedar note that really comes back in the finish-- and... what also struck me, that I missed the first time, was the bit of iodine (I've learned to identify by trying more Islays). Not quite Laphroaig-levels of "barfy" iodine, but enough to "challenge" the sherry. Still, I really like the palate fruitiness as it combines with the dark notes.

I guess you're unlikely to change your mind, but if it helps your future experience any: the theme of my review for this was to drink cool, maybe 16C. (I think that was the temperature in Edinburgh that day... and every other day!) The Bowmore smoke should be able to come across as soft, and not-- well not as you describe....

@Nozinan

This is the second of three Bowmore miniatures in my set. What I found most interesting when I compared this to the Laimrig (they ARE the same age) was that they were so completely different.

Nose: Syrup, vanilla, butterscotch/caramel, later a fruity note and hint of apple. with water the nose is deadened (even with a covered glass, but the fruit remains, and later a little sulfur, not in a pleasant way

Taste: Neat, there is an initially sour hit, with some citrus. Deep in the background some milk chocolate. A dry peat finish. With a few drops of water all I get is soggy, dilute peat.

Blech. Keep it neat.

Didn't finish this dram. Last ~ 10 cc in the bottle were saved for mixing into...

Crap. Was gonna pick this up, looking at the price its good to know its not worth it. I just saved $93. Thanks Noz.

can't believe people would pay 95 dollars for a bottle of this at the LCBO!

@PMessinger
@WhiskyAndMe

Bowmore's a distillery with a great legacy but over the past few years they have been subject to quite a bit of criticism for a few below par releases. I have visited this distillery and I really love the place and that makes me a bit biased towards everything that they bring out and this is one of those expressions that keeps my faith going strong in this lovely distillery.

Nose:

Lovely heavy sherry notes characteristic of the Oloroso casks that have been used to mature this spirit for 15 years followed by some dry black raisins with vanilla and some nice woody tones that comes along.

A bit of oxidizing bring out some lovely dry flowers aromas with some green apples and mild citrus notes as well

Palate:

There's some nice salty caramel notes as well some sweet toffee notes coming out together. Seems like the proximity of the distillery's warehouse to the sea is adding the saltiness to the caramel notes. There are also hints of peat and smoke which is always good if your an Islay whisky fan. Noticeably this whisky is nice and syrupy on the palate which is pleasing too.

Finish:

I'd say the finish a medium one not too dry once again.. Some woody notes, a bit of peat.. mildly sweet and spicy flavors are that you get before its gone!

At approximately GBP 47.. I'd say this is a really nicely priced weekend dram.. :)

@FMichael for me.. the recent Bowmore's have not really been about too much of peat as one would come to except from an Islay whisky (this is not to undermine them by any means).. and so for the smoke and peat would be a lot more than the Lagavulin.. the Highland Park's is probably a lot closer in terms of the peat and smokiness.. although to be honest I'd need to sample a lot more of them to actually make a more informed statement... :)

@Nozinan.. I've heard a lot of good things about the Laimrig so I am curious to try it and compare them especially given that both of them are matured in sherry casks...I won't say this 15 year (i.e. the Darkest) old is the best.. but it certainly isn't too bad either

@MaltActivist

I initially had a rocky relationship with this distillery, having sampled some less than stellar expressions earlier on in my quest as a malt enthusiast. Luckily @TrailingTheMalt, who has an obsession with this single malt, insisted I keep trying.

Good call.

This 15 year old was finished in Oloroso sherry for three years after spending the first twelve in bourbon barrels.

Nose: Quite dry like autumn potpourri and crushed leaves. The strong Oloroso sherry is remarkably balanced with a nice dark chocolate and treacle mix. Red wild berries covered in black salt are next followed by a nice woody vanilla and rustic raisins.

Palate: Medium bodied delivery which at first sip seems a bit weak but gathers steam as your palate plays with it. Fresh red berries on dark salt strewn over a plank of cedar cinnamon vanilla. Finally tasty autumn fruits with a touch of peaty smoke.

Finish: Medium long with slightly drying clove.

This is a solid malt which one can drink without being too overwhelmed. And I mean that in a good way.

@tabarakRazvi, thanks for your very nice review.

This Bowmore Darkest really divides people. It also seems that the batches have varied a lot over the years from some reports. My experiences with Bowmore Darkest has been much the same as yours, and my rating of it and observations (probably with differently styled discriptors) about it would be similar, as well.

@Victor Yes, I know. I read a few not so stellar reviews about this one before I decided to sample it. But it seems I stumbled upon a decent batch. Actually it was from a mini so maybe it was from one of the earlier batches? I really don't know for sure since there was not a lot of information on the box.

Any info on how and when they release the minis?

B

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.

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.

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

@Nemesis101

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.

I have never tried Laimrig but would love the chance to. Unfortunately I have not found it on sale anywhere despite extensive Googling. As you say, very difficult to obtain and I would imagine it might be rather pricey.

Have you tried the Laimrig? CS bottling of the Darkest. I've tasted it once and it's lovely, but the bottles can be difficult to track down.

@talexander

Some friends and I briefly visited Bowmore in May of this year. We didn't have time to tour the distillery, but browsed the visitor centre, where they had many rare deluxe bottlings on display. The fully stocked bar doles out free drams of Bowmore Legend and 12 Year Old - you could literally sit there and drink all day for free! It's gorgeous, with a whitewashed exterior, and perched right on the shores of Loch Indaal. This whisky has spent three of its fifteen years in Oloroso sherry casks, and is one of the standard core range offered by the distillery.

The colour is a dark copper. On the nose, rich dark chocolate, Turkish coffee, herbal with mint and sage. Lots of dates and raisins. Definite sherry wood influence. With water, the peat takes prescence.

On the palate, many of the same notes with more toffee, buttered dark rye bread and a hint of peat. You really get the oak here. With water, the peat becomes more prominent, as does the malt.

The finish is smokier with a lot of depth. More of the malt comes through, and tannic on the death. This is one of my favourite Bowmores, luxurious but also straightforward, displaying the best characteristcs the distillery has to offer. Sipping this is a lovely way to spend Dec 22nd, with Siobhan and I wrapping Christmas presents and sharing a dram or two.

I love whisky from oloroso casks, I love Islay, I love peat, I generally like Bowmore, but like Victor said, there are lovers and haters. I don't necessarily hate Bowmore Darkest, but it felt to me like they were trying very hard not to produce a bowmore like malt. It just felt a bit unfinished to me

Ah, my first Bowmore. Honestly, I wouldn't care if it were blue. Too many overpowering flavors to detect a dye anyway. And now I've moved "up", to its even stronger version: the Laimrig. Hard to imagine I'll ever need to come back.

F

I've tried a lot of whisky or wiskey, depending on which side of the pond they were distilled on. All I can say is that if i ever were stuck on a deserted island and could choose one dram, it would be Bowmore's 15 yr old "Darkest". This Islay single malt just matches me well. The combination of the sherry cask and the smokiness along with the not so subtle notes of cocoa are sublime to me.

@Aulay

A delicious nose with a peaty black forest cake flavor. No mistaking the thick sherry influence on top of the thick Bowmore malt. The best review is how long this bottle lasted, NOT LONG! Slainte.

Succinct and to the point. Good one! I really want to try this. Cheers.

Is this the Laimrig? The bottle on display at LCBO is at 54.4%.

@WhiskyBee

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.

Great write-up @WhiskyBee. I wrote a review of this myself a few months back when it was freshly opened and didn't quite love it. Since then it's been sitting in my cabinet and hasn't been touched. You've definitely inspired me to revisit this!

Available at the LCBO, but not much of it around. But for $92? No way. I am going through a flight of three from my sample pack, in preparation of trying the Laimrig in December. This one is better than the 12... I think I WILL finish the dram, but it's still not spectacular. And chocolate doesn't fix it...

@MisterDigger

I tried this Islay Malt at one of my favorite bars this evening and it reminded me of Highland Park 12, and maybe even a tad better. Just one more example of the perfect blend of sweet and smoke. Then I came home and looked up the price. Yikes! It costs about 50% more. Gosh, it's tough having expensive tastes! I rated at one point below my "would buy again" rating.

While I was there, I ordered another glass of Talisker 10 which I absolutely hated when I first began my quest. Aquired taste? Hogwash! Well, yes! After Bowmore 15 paved the way, the Talisker 10 suddenly jumped up for my rating, which will follow with a review later. So, if at first you hate one malt, wait a while and go back to it after gently easing into it with one like Bowmore 15. This is a good transition malt between Speyside and Islay.

Okay, curiosity killed my wallet because I had to go out and buy a whole bottle of this good malt. I did a side by side test against Highland Park 12, and as my review for that one said, anything stronger on flavors would be obnoxious. In this case, the Bowmore 15 has quite a bit of peat and a tad more sweetness. However, I did bump up my original score from 89 to 90, which means that I now rate it as worth buying again, even at $70 US. This is now my favoite peated one, beating out Caol Ila 12 which is MUCH lighter.

After this bottle has gotten some air in it, I had to bump the score back down to an 87. Evidently, this one does not hold up too well to oxidation.

@vanPelt

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.

R

Nose: The heavy sherry signature in this dram is no surprise. It wafts up from the glass like mist from the Garden of Eden, along with a more complex fruitiness belying dates, figs, and allspice.

Palate: Sherry again, along with sea salt and caramel, toasted malt, nougat, wood that does not exactly taste like the usual oak. I'm getting resin that reminds me of fir or pine perhaps. The palate ends with a pleasant smokiness.

Finish: After the whisky is down the hatch, I get sherry again, Allspice, caramel, and an attenuation of smoke that blends well with the sweetness of this dram.

I've tasted this whisky three times in different pubs. The first was the best. It was presented not as "darkest" but as a Bowmore 15. I can only assume it was "darkest" but it tasted much more complex and layered than the other two glasses at later dates.

My last glass recently did not seem nearly as complex as the first. I can't say why. However, in all three cases the Bowmore 15 Darkest was quite tasty. Here in Oregon, it retails for slightly over a hundred dollars, which seems a bit steep to me, considering the relative complexity.

For those who crave heavy sherry influences, this one is worth trying. If you are more of a heavy smoky/peaty "Islay" type drinker, you might not like it very much. It seems well suited as an aperitif or a whisky to enjoy with desert. My wife certainly appreciated its finer charms.

I hope the dark tint of this whisky is all natural. It would be a shame to learn it is fake caramel coloring that earns the name "darkest." To me, that would be blasphemy. I can't imagine Bowmore "going there" with an additive, and then calling attention to the color so directly. It must be real.

Looked it up: Yes, Dave, you are correct. Well done. The Darkest has "mit farbstoff" written on the bottle.

What a disappointment. I guess the caramel additives are common to most Bowmore whiskies. I won't be buying a bottle any time soon after making this discovery. "Darkest," my po po. Uh uh. It ain't truly dark, if the darkness is fake additives. To me, that is the darkness of deceit not the darkness of a fine craft whisky.

This said, I also researched the first bottle that I tasted at Kells downtown. It was the 15, not the Darkest 15. I like that better. In my opinion, the fake caramel is less pronounced in the 15 over the Darkest 15. This said, I have never tasted the mere "Darkest" (without a year listed on the label), which I understand was a 14 year old whisky.

So, it seems the "dark passenger" in Darkest is E150. I stand by my title. And yes, for those who watch "Dexter" that is the allusion. Putting chemical caramel is whisky is like a human brain operating without the use of the frontal lobes (hence, psychopathy). Thank goodness for the Germans who demand the label list the presence of this "dark passenger."

Well done, you Germans. And you don't allow "fluoride" in your water (which is, in actuality, the industrial waste of fertilizer mining operations and far from pharmaceutical grade fluoride). So, the dark passenger in much of the water in the USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and England is actually industrial waste passing itself off as "fluoride." Dark Passenger, indeed. The Scottish do not allow this Dark Passenger in their water. Well done, Scotland. Your whisky is better for it!

@hunggar

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.

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. . . .

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.

@SquidgyAsh

So I've been enjoying this very sexy whisky advent calender from Master of Malt. My wife bought it for my Christmas present after receiving the very subtle hint from me when I sent her the email advertising it.

A calender made up of 24 different whiskies, from all over the world in all sorts of different styles at different ages and different strengths.

I've been working my way through this calender slowly, savoring the different whiskies. I'd started with entry level whiskies, slowly moving my way up the ladder, getting into older whiskies, whiskies at higher strengths, whiskies that I can't get my hands on.

The whisky I cracked open tonight was one I've been eyeing all week, an Islay, which after the week I've had, felt just like the whisky I needed.

Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest.

Now I've had Bowmore once before, but this is the first time I've tried this expression and it's the first time I'm reviewing a Bowmore.

This Bowmore has been aged for 13 years in bourbon barrels and then aged for the last 2 years in Oloroso sherry casks.

It pours a sexy dark color that just makes you giggle and go "this is going to be good!"

Intoxicating aromas off the glencairn once it's been poured. Very sweet nose, you can immediately see the sherry's influence, ripe red fruits, cherries and raisins, along with the beautiful peat, it slowly becomes spicy, mainly cinnamon and then slowly shifts into hints of vanilla and dark chocolate.

Mmmmm.

This is a whisky I'm happy to nose for hours.

However I need to take a drink eventually so here goes!

Slightly ashy with peat, a little bit oaky and then it goes fruity again with the red fruits, not nearly as intoxicating as the nose, but not bad. Slightly thin mouthfeel, but not enough to be a big detraction.

The finish is where this whisky comes back to life though, long and fruity with cherries and butterscotch. Beautiful!

An enjoyable little whisky, that sadly I've yet to see in Australia, but if you were able to find it I'd expect to pay $100 to $120 AUS for it, which strikes me as a fair price for this little guy.

If you get a chance to try it and you like your sweeter Islay's go for it.

@Lars totally agree with you, or even better and just a little more pricey, Ardbeg Galileo! It's not a bad whisky and definitely a whisky I wouldn't hesitate to drink again, not sure how often I'd buy a bottle of it though.

@Bennibarrel It is a nice one! Slainte!

@Wills You're correct my friend! Two very different styles! It was enjoyable, but there was something about the body of the whisky that prevented me from getting into this whisky as much as I'd hoped to. However sexy as hell nose!

On the calenders I didn't see any others for sale by any of the other whisky sites, other then Master of Malt. The first calender ran me a wee bit under $300 after Customs and delivery and all that good stuff, the following 2 are supposed to run me around $231 or so after I got my sister store to import them for me. God if only I could buy whisky at wholesale prices! I'll definitely be buying calenders next year though!

Nice review as always and I'm glad you finally were able to have a taste of this one. The price on this jumped up considerably since the last time I purchased it. While a nice whisky I would save a few bucks here in Canada and purchase either Aberlour A'bunadh or Glendronach 15 yo which are less expensive but tastier IMHO.

F

Brought up warm memories of sitting by the fireside with cozy cedar smoke. Nose is smokey and peat as expected from a good islay malt. Hint of toffee and butterscotch. Palate is woody. Again the strong cedar smoke comes through. Sweet as it sits on the tongue. Smooth. Warm. Finish is sweet and candy. Toffee and chocolate. Fits nice with a piece of dark chocolate. A good scotch to finish a rich meal.

For a gentle introduction, try Ardbeg Galileo. It's not a particularly stellar Ardbeg, but it kind of took the place of the Beist, which was better, but alas, is hard to find now. Galileo is a bit spendy, but it's a nice mellow introduction to the real meaty peaty goodness that is Islay. It definitely has more teeth than Dark. Some of the older Bowmores can be nice, but they are even more spendy. If you're on a budget, try Talisker mixed with Caol Ila. It's really freakin' good! Those two bottles will last a while! 1500ml!

Tried this a Highland Stillhouse the other day. It was very underwhelming. Delicious and sweet but quite lacking in sophistication when compared with the other three glasses I ordered (see my comments on those; they were all based on reviews here as of late). I certainly enjoyed the Dark, but it was nothing to write home about. Eell, all be, I seem to be writing about it anyhow! Go figure!

@Volks

Bowmore's 15 year old in a proper first fill dark sherry cask. Shame that its only bottled at 43% ABV, i think Bowmore could have done a bit better there, but let that not detract from a thoroughly positive review

Colour: Deep red copper

  • Nose: light maritime character, with salt and phenol, peat would be a little generous, rich, dense, chocolate raisin with a hint of smoke. With water buttery note really comes through and drowns out the rest but faint chocolate remains

  • Pallet: medium in texture, slightly chewy, sweet, turning maritime again, light hint of buttery sherry with gentle gentle spices and more raisin. With water butter again, but not as dominant, more of a very rich sherry, less maritime character however,

  • Finish: warming to the heart, a nice full waft of smoke with medium dark chocolate and a neat dry finish. With water thick, fat overall less complex, sherry comes through more, smoke is lurking around but doesn’t get much of a look in

  • Mark neat: 8.7/10. With water: 8/10

Its rare (i find) that a whisky is better without water, but i suppose the exception proves the rule

it you want a taste of what lies beneath all the fire and brimstone of islay whiskies, while still keeping enough of the maritime character; this is a good way to go for me.

Scores below are for the neat version

@Lars

I went out and purchased this fine scotch after reading many reviews on it, and some helpful members who suggested I join "the Dark side".

When I first opened the bottle after a rich meal I thought I may have made a mistake by purchasing it. All I registered was how smokey this scotch was. I put it away that night but brought it out the following night with a few friends. It was like the bottle had changed overnight, the smokiness remained but other aspects also appeared.

Colour: Dark Amber

Nose: A touch of vanilla that develops into a chocolate cherry similar to a Mon Cheri then finishes with a slight brine smell.

Palate: A dry fruit and semi-sweet dark chocolate heaviness.... Ending with a subtle salt favoring

Finish: As the last drip of liquid is swallowed a sour cherry taste is noted giving way to a peatiness. Throughout there is smoke that lingers long after the the scotch is gone.

After sampling over the past week I've come to appreciate this scotch more and more. It seems to me that it improves after opening. This is not a light scotch but more, in my opinion, a fine after dinner treat.

Definitely more heavy than the 12 yr old and not too heavy on the chocolate more of a cherry taste to me. Funny thing is I've given this to new scotch drinkers and they prefer it to the lighter brands ie) Auchentoshan 12 yr, Glenfiddich 12 yr.

Sounds yum my friend!! I wonder if it's possible that the new scotch drinkers find the Auchentoshan and Glenfiddich 12 yr olds are more basic and boring where this one seems to be a little more complex?

@elis

Just bought this dram. Wonderful nose, upon opening it. Complex. The scents of warm smoke, sherry, vanilla, oak, subtle peat, dark honey, & slight butterscotch flavors.

It reminded me of one of my favorites which is Bowmore 17yr. (but now discontinued) although, it didn't have the sherry tones in it, that this one does. Nice touch.

On the palate, definite smoke lingers, sherry is still present, with coffee, vanilla.

Very smooth on the finish, lingering smoke is still there, dry chocolate tones with slight sherry, oak flavours.

Much preferred over Bowmore 12, in my opinion...and much closer to Bowmore 17 in my opinion.

I will have to try it once more tonight with an espresso and DK chocolate...as an accompaniment.

Enjoy.

I have just tried it for the first time. I was fairly unimpressed by the 12, but quite a different story here for the 15. What a delightful dram! Thank you for your review.

@dbk

Fellow Connosr member AboutChoice and I decided to write independent reviews of the Bowmore 15 year-old Darkest and post them simultaneously. For his unique perspective on this whisky, please see his charming review.

In a recent blog post (dramming.com/2010/10/…), Oliver Klimek laments the loss of the smoky sherried (Scotch) whisky. Once commonplace, he argues its disappearance among Scotch whiskies is due to simple economic factors. As he notes, however, ‘very recently we have seen the pendulum swinging back in Scotland’. Among those riding the pendulum is the Bowmore distillery, whose 15 year-old ‘Darkest’ expression is both peated—as is the Bowmore way—and matured for three years in Oloroso sherry casks, after twelve in the standard ex-bourbon barrels.

The nose on the Bowmore 15 year-old Darkest is wound up tight. The smoke is extremely dry, with the sherry notes coming through beneath; it is less a medley than a tug-of-war between two competing scents. Alongside the sherry and smoke is a healthy whiff of salt, some iodine, and a dose of caramel.

Like the nose, the palate reveals a very dry, woody smoke, much like pine needles in the dead of summer. There is also malt, caramel, and a subtle sherry, accompanied by some orange and clove. The smoke rises again on the finish, again with sherry beneath, trailing both heat and saline.

The Bowmore 15 year-old Darkest is a fine dram, but it’s not especially sophisticated. While reasonably interesting—and strikingly salty—there remains a disappointing lack of integration between the peat and the sherry. It's less of a marriage of these two elements and more mere cohabitation. A worthwhile take on the sherried, smoky Scotch whisky, perhaps, but not the stuff of legends.

I very much enjoyed this synchronized review, what a good idea!

This is certainly one of the better (current) Bowmore official bottlings.

I will tend to agree that Bowmore Darkest is okay - I might drop it to an 80 - I just took a sip of Corryvreckan - and it ripped the pants off a rather pale Bowmore Darkest in comparison....

@AboutChoice

Bowmore 15 Darkest is so far the most difficult bottle that I have reviewed. It is aged in American bourbon casks, and then in oloroso sherry casks, and is an offering from a minority group of assertive whiskies, in which both a smoke and a sherry component each holds its own … the word “hint” does not apply here. HP 12 is in the fringes of this category, but is gentle and sophisticated compared to Bowmore.

Bottle Nose: Deep fruit, raisons and chocolate … a classic sherry signature.

Glass Nose: A unique oily petroleum smokiness which reminds me of a factory, auto shop or asphalt.

Palate: Lovely, sweet, lively and complex fruity opening … and then the dominating smoky fog rolls in and takes over until the next sip. The unique petroleum type of smoke seems consistent with the nose and with other Bowmore expressions. All tasted without water.

Finish: The smoke continues and becomes dry and sour, with hints of grapefruit. The finish is medium and quite satisfying, and the taste from the pungent sour smoke lingers forever.

Conclusion: At a sensory level, what I (usually) notice most is the somewhat unpleasant type of oily smoke, and moreover, that the lovely sherry experience and the smokiness (usually) do not intermingle, and they do not seem to compliment each other. First you are served the tantalizing sherry, and then the oily smoke … and finally you leave with dry and sour desert.

Bowmore Darkest is hard to get to know. For a long time I did not care for this crude and industrial style of peat/smoke; it is different from all the other Islays that I have tasted. And though I still have problems with the smoky part, each tasting is often different from the last. This bottle is always engaging, never boring and always provides an adventure. Over several months Bowmore Darkest has grown to fill a niche in my cabinet … there is really nothing else like it, and it hardly fits in anywhere. Though not at all a goto malt, it is a good choice when I am wanting something different and wildly interesting. So with this redeeming character, I’m beginning to feel that I might miss this distinctive sweet and sour renegade when it is gone … and I might just pick up a replacement bottle. Maybe @dbk will have the rest of his bottle up for sale :-)

Be sure to also see @dbk’s somewhat confirming review, along with additional insights and meaningful differences.

Score: 83/100 (the score includes a few points for its engaging uniqueness)

@Wills, thank you for the kind words. I have to say, even having done the review, Bowmore's peat/smoke does not do a lot for me. There is nothing special about the Bowmore 12 character, the Darkest is very interesting but problematic (see @dbk's review as well); the Dawn is also interesting in a more positive way, but strange ... I'm planning to review that. I can't really answer your question, as I haven't tried enough Bowmores. I haven't tried Eagles of Death Metal yet :)

@Sroberts86, I assume you are new to fine whisky. I'll bet you can find much cheaper ingredients that will yield a similarly tasty cocktail ! :-) ... never heard of anyone getting shot on Connosr yet !

An engaging review once again. Thx @AboutChoice!

I always had an eye on this dram, but wasn't able to try it yet. I guess everyone has those whiskys he just HAS to taste in the future - mostly the near future ;)

Do you think this special peat/smoke character is usual for Bowmore distillery, or is it just the Darkest?

@markjedi1

After having tried the Bowmore 12 Year Old, I was a fan of the label. So I had to try the 15 year old, Darkest (sherry cask finished).

The nose was peaty, but not overly so, but you could smell almonds and even a bit of caramel. The dominating scent was sherry, which shouldn't come as a surprise. I added a little bit of water and got some black fruit and choclolate in return.

On the palace its very soft, velvety, but peaty. There are grapes and choclolate in abundance.

The finish is dry, but complex and very well balanced. This is the best Bowmore I've had so far (better then both the 12 Year Old and the 18 Year Old).

It's absolutely not as peaty as some of the so-called peatmonsters, such as Ardbeg or Laphroaig, but it's peaty nonetheless. But even for those who are not that fond of peated Scotch will love this one.

@mr_phillip

An amazing expression, and vastly superior to the previous Darkest edition.

Matured for thirteen years in bourbon casks before being finished in oloroso sherry casks, the nose is an uncanny blend of chocolate fruitiness with the classic Bowmore sea-air freshness (think eating a raisin and biscuit Yorkie while standing on the banks of Loch Indaal). Palate is all smokey, peaty goodness with those refined Bowmore seaweed and pepper notes. Ends on a long and satisfying finish.

Gives its best when allowed to open up in the glass for 15-20 minutes.

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