Douglas Laing: Bowmore XOP 21 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 56.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear greened grain. Mid sized streaks come out from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Smooth peat. Light moss. Very smooth and clean. Oily fish skin. Lightly medicinal. Batter. Water changes little.

Body: Oily fish skin. Sweet apples. Smooth. Cinder toffee. Grapes. Light ash. Slight salt. Water adds more grapes and some smoke.

Finish: Cinder toffee. Oily fish skin. Seaweed. Crème brulee. Slight ash. Grapes. Water adds more smoke, slightly peppery.

Conclusion: This is so clean, so smooth for the abv, so polished. It has got salt, slight medicinal character as you would expect from and Islay, but low peat and no fancy barrel ageing altering the flavour. What you get is very smooth vanilla, tinned tropical fruit and grape notes that speak to a very long time in a bourbon barrel. It doesn’t act unusually, but it does have the standard notes delivered ultra smoothly.

The lighter touch lets green fruit notes come out and mix with the lighter medicinal character. If you are worried from this description that the whisky is going to be too light for you, let me reassure you that there are still notes such as an oily fish skin heaviness, notes that bring a thicker character to a gentle alcohol weight whisky. For people who have tried a lot of Bowmore I’d say imagine a mix of the 12 and 18 year, taken the best elements of the two, smoothing massively and putting out at higher alcohol strength and polish.

Water smooths it out even more if you can believe that making for a very easy to sip Islay, but it doesn’t open up any new notes. Now it tastes nowhere near the abv it is pushing out, even taking into account the water, so smooth, with the only flaw is that it doesn’t stand out with any unique elements. It is not super different in flavour to the younger expressions but it is very polished and enjoyable. A very refined take on a classic.

Background: What is there to say for this one? – fourth of the five whiskies tasted at Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber Whisky tasting night. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best. So, I have had some bloody good experience with the XOP range from Douglas Laing. Also, seriously, I love Bowmore, though they do such a wide range of expressions it is hard to know what you will get in any bottling. To paraphrase one of my favourite quotes on Bowmore – If you can’t find a Bowmore expression you enjoy it may be time to ask if whisky is for you. This one of 317 bottles taken from a single cask.

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