Bowmore is a dichotomous distillery for me. It’s been on my radar since my first whisky mentor showed me his bottle of Black Bowmore (not opened, sadly). Then, I found a bottle of Laimrig in Calgary (I think in 2012), and in order to prepare myself for it I bought a mini set of 12, 15 and 18. To say I was not impressed is putting it politely. But the Laimrig was fabulous, and I have sampled other cask strength Bowmores, like Tempest, which have been excellent. So I think that when they put an effort in, Bowmore can provide excellent results.
In February, long after I stopped lamenting the fact that I had missed out on getting one, someone, for reasons I will never fathom, returned a bottle of this expression and I was able to get it at its original price. Recent googling suggests that this bottle is now worth at least twice what I paid for it. So is it worth opening?
Only one way to find out. Yes, obtaining a sample form someone else! I had tried an earlier version thanks to @Talexander, but I set up a Tempest swap (5 for 6) with @Cricklewood and one of the “players to be named later” was a small sample of DC III, which I now review. I do not know how long the bottle was open but I opened the sample bottle for the first time today.
This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting.
Neat, sherry on first pour, then peat. I get dark fruits. Some smoked ham. Not unlike Laimrig (except the ham). I get a hint of the smell you find in a fish store. Very sweet interplaying with savoury. Very pleasant nose that just gets better and better over half an hour (before tasting) . After tasting I also get cherry Kool-Aid (diluted like they do at camp).
With water and with time, the savoury aspect becomes more pronounced. I get lox (smoked salmon, that I’ve only once before smelled in a Bowmore). 22.5/25
Neat, remarkably subdued first sip, with red berry notes (cherry and raspberry). Sweet. A little sherry. Surprisingly less complex on the palate than it was on the nose.
With water, sweeter, more fruity arrival, and more of a sherry character than neat. Also I get a chalky sensation. Becomes a little thin in the mouthfeel. A little menthol. 21.5/25
Neat and with water, the peat becomes more prominent in the finish. Dry, ashy. Nice, long. 22/25
The nose promises a little more than the palate delivers. I like the balance between the sweet sherry and the peat, but I think a few more darker fruits would have made this a touch better. 22/25
Score: 88 /100
I like this. It gets better after an hour or so in the glass. Head to Head with Laimrig IV I think Laimrig has the edge. They have the same overall score but I think the Laimrig has improved since I reviewed it.
So is it worth opening? If I thought it would be something enjoyed by a group of people who could really appreciate it, yes. But aside from the ham and raw fish (in a good way) it doesn't have much that I can't get, and better, from Laimrig.
I only have the one, but if I could, at it's current value on the secondary market, trade it for something else that I didn't have or coveted (like a good Stagg), I might be sorely tempted.
@Nozinan , I've only had the 12 from the age-stated OB range, and that was the exact definition of mediocre to me. It's not actively unpleasant, but it's weak, tepid, and boring. (That judgment is by peated Islay standards, of course—peaty virgins would probably describe it differently!)
Nothing from that experience and nothing that I've read about the rest of their standard range tempts me to lay out the clams to find out what the 18, for example, is like. But accounts I've read would put it in the same bucket.
It's kinda funny, but I think the Bowmores that I'm most interested in trying are the notorious FWP ones from the early 80s! I've never had one and I really don't want to buy a whole bottle just for a taste, but I sure would like if someone pulled one out from their bar sometime and said "wanna taste something awful?"
Nicely said @Nozinan. It seems to me that Bowmores are either brilliant or complete crap. My favourite so far was a Rattray 15 year old that I got at the Whisky Castle in Dufftown. As soon as I tasted it I wished I'd bought another couple. Otherwise: Laimrig oh Laimrig wherefore art thou?