Recently a friend of mine, his father-in-law and I had a tasting session. We actually went through 13 drams in one sitting. A long but very good night! The whiskies we went through in order were Bushmills Black Bush, Macphail's Collection Bunnahabhain 1990 (bottled in 2006), Bruichladdich 10 year old (bottled in 1979), Ardbeg Blasda, Port Ellen 25 year old (distilled 1980 bottled 2006), Bowmore 1956 (distilled in 1956, bottled in 1983), Glenfiddich 15 year old, Gordon and MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Ardbeg 13 year old (distilled in 1972), Ardbeg 10 year old, Ardbeg Lord of the Isles, Ardbeg Uigeadail, Gordon and MacPhail Caol Ila 16 year old (distilled in 1969) and the Ardbeg Supernove. Over the next few days I will be writing up my notes. I won't be re-reviewing those malts I've already reviewed, but there are plenty of new ones.
I was dead set keen on this when I realised it was on offer. We'd had a couple of near misses, and a genuinely good malt, but who could say no to a Bowmore that was distilled in 1956 and bottled in 1983! This is the last in a series of bottles bought a number of years ago, and unfortunately very hard to get ahold of now!
First sniff, and I was on another planet. This is totally different to any Bowmore (or any Islay) malt I've every come across. A smooth seductive mix of cantaloupe, oranges, vanilla and warm smoke with just a gentle wave of peat in the background. Really complex. Definitely the most unique nose I have ever come across. Totally different from anything the Bowmore distillery comes out with today. And did I mention good? It took me forever to take a sniff, because there was no way that the taste and finish could be anywhere near as good as the nose.
Eventually I plucked up the nerve to take a sip, and oh my, was I wrong! Light and smooth waves of sweet creamy sherry, with hints of watermelon and cantaloupe. This is offset after a few seconds with a gentle wave of peat and dry smoke. Seriously smooth and dangerously brilliant!. At this point I'm finding it hard to swallow, the mouth-feel and taste are so good that the finish can only be a disappointment.
When I finally brought myself to swallow, the finish hit like the warmth of a bonfire on a cool Summers evening. A warming hint of cinnamon and nutmeg makes itself known through the creamy sherry smoke and a gentle saltiness that accompany the peat under-note which lasts forever! Over several seconds a subtle waft of vanilla, cantaloupe, and oranges comes through just because it tastes brilliant!
This was always going to be the highlight of the night. Bottles of this vintage go for as much as £1500. I've always said that beyond a certain price AU$200 (~£100 or so), drams stop being value for money. But this one... This one stopped me in my tracks - stopped me dead.
This is what I look for in a whisky. This is unique. Full of character. Full of flavour. Full of history! The nose was brilliant. The taste was better. The finish was the best part! Is it value for money? Some things aren't about price! At AU$3000 per bottle I'm not sure I could say no! If you ever get the chance to try this, do not let it slip away. Just do not!
This dram is what all other whiskies wish they could be.
@markjedi - there are indeed some serious heavy hitters in that list! John, the father in law has been collecting whiskies for decades. He actually picked up a few of these bottles in the 80's, and this was the last one!
@Kalekas - this is a certainly a fitting dram for the afterlife. We were aiming to have an Ardbeg tasting, but John decided he wanted to bring along a few specials! Far be it for me to complain!
@RoganFox - I understand the jealousy, I found myself contemplating various nefarious acts in order to make the bottle mine!
@dbk - My sentiments exactly. Wow was the first word I said upon taking a sniff.
@Jean-Luc - I have always been quietly keen on sampling some of the older Bowmores, but now I am quite loudly keen on sampling more. But yes, the Black Bowmore is high on the list. The father-in-law of my friend who brought this bottle said that his father much preferred the Bowmore 1965 over the 1956, but that he was the other way around. So the 1965 is also on my list to get my hands on somehow!