Tag Archive: Bowmore

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.


Bowmore: 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: A quite reddened copper.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Smoke, just slightly oily. Meats and kippers. Light charring. Honeycomb. Smoother and with custard elements when you add water.

Body: Smooth and peaty. Marmalade. Milk chocolate. Meaty. Water smoothes adding honey. Still quite meaty with water. Red fruit and grape jam mix together. Doughnuts.

Finish: Fish oil. Chocolate and vanilla. Water adds caramel on digestive biscuits, Strawberry jam.

Conclusion: I know it has been said that there is a Bowmore for all whisky fans, but I didn’t expect them all to be combined in one glass.

This a very smooth whisky, and one that initially matches my memories of first trying it.  What was most distinctive from my memories was a light fish element, oils and kippers. Here it is present but nowhere near the level my memories suggested. Water lightens it from those notes bringing out sweet flavours and reinforces that meaty and peaty Islay way of doing things. Either way that light fish oil and kippers is a minor interesting note at the back of a very clever whisky.

What makes it stand out is that dry chocolate flavour, similar to the 15 year old, but here you get a fruity jammyness that peaks out around the edges. It’s a careful set of lighter notes that floats around the weightier main body.

It really is a careful mix of graceful sweetness and heavy flavour without ever bending to that booming medicinal nature that oft comes with the heavier Islays. It is very easy to examine and find new layers, but never feels too smooth and light. The sweetness and peat balance very well, better than you would expect for such a combination.

This is well worth sampling, distinguished without losing what you enjoy about the younger Bowmores,  A whisky that will trade you a few drops of water for a massive range of flavour. Very impressive

Background: I’m a big fan of Islay whiskies, and Bowmore is one of the smoother spirits the place turns out.  I’d tried this 18 year old whisky a few years ago at a whisky show but was a touch past my best by that point so did not review it.  I found this at the tasting rooms so decided to return to the old friend.

Bowmore 30 Years (Islay Scottish Single Malt Whisky: 30 years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Honeyed gold.

Viscosity: Very slow puckering and thick clinging spirit.

Nose: Smoke and fudge, with very slight olives in brine. Marmalade. Hint of beef broth underneath.  Water initially makes lighter, then allows pineapple, mandarin orange and confectionary to come out

Body: Very smooth with a ginger like sparkle to it. Dry oak, custard sweetness with that marmalade touch again. Water makes much sweeter, and yet adds a bit of beef and peat to roam. Sweet pineapple and mandarin orange then round it out.

Finish: Booming oak with slight brine. Slight bitter chocolate.  The flavour is very dry.  Water makes more broth like and adds much sweeter chocolate. Slight sherried raisins and mandarin orange.

Conclusion: You never know what to expect with a new Bowmore, there is such a range to the spirit that each expression is new joy.

This then needs some examination. Very smooth, even without the water, and in that waterless form it has a slight sea and smoke touch that calls to the Islay home, yet with none of the harshness. This, if anything could be considered the Bowmore signature, but there is so much more here. Very much allowing rounded oak to have its influence and a ginger sparkle to replace the fire.  Adding water then reveals the most distinctive part of its character, a very fresh and sweet fruit to the body which seems this expressions stylistic take on the spirit.

This takes the expectations of a light fruity whisky and matches them against that restrained Islay character to significant success.  Very mellow for an Islay, even considering that Bowmore is usually a restrained example of the region, but the flavour gives its spice enough.

Very much feels like they have taken the experience in developing the different expression and mixed in choice elements. The chocolate sweetness of Bowmore 15 Darkest, Salt and smoke from the 12 ,and slight brine from the 18 year.

A complex whisky of worthy consideration. Considering the price, you will want to get a lot of consideration out of your measure.

Background: The hundredth whisky tasting note. Looking for something special, I remembered this bad boy was available by the measure in a pub over in Bristol. A day trip was then required. The 30 year Bowmore is one I have been told is normally only available in Travel Retail, making for a very special find.  I am a big fan of Bowmore, and enjoy Ian Banks description of it. To paraphrase, he says that the different expressions of Bowmore cover such a wide range that if you cannot find a Bowmore you like, then you should question if whisky is the thing for you. I can’t help but agree.

Bowmore 15 Year (Darkest) (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 15 Years Old: 40% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy red amber bronze.

Viscosity: A moderate amount of streaks, fast and fast forming yet thick.

Nose: Dark chocolate, syrup. Slight grain and salt. Smooth. Blackforest gateaux. Slight sherried fruit and spices. More golden syrup comes out with water along with strawberry.

Body: Really spicy and full of red fruits. Raspberry and bitter chocolate. Rich fruitcake. Water adds honey snaps and much sweeter taste plus a touch of roasted feel.

Finish: Dry smooth chocolate. Shortbread and digestives. Slight bitter and smoke, but very slight. Roasted nuts and salt.

Conclusion: Luxury chocolate in a whisky glass. Dark and rich, this is a top notch whisky for savouring in a smoking jacket before a warm fire. Wonderful rich fruits come out in the body – this rakes a great deal of complexity and layers it upon light Islay touches.

Very fine, and feels distinctly distinguished. Highly recommended for those who like a little force in their elaborate chocolate whiskies.

Bowmore 12 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky:40% ABV)

Visual: Light orange brown.

Viscosity: A couple of medium speed streaks but no real outbreak.

Nose: Light peat and smoke. Barley and honey, Soap.

Body: Peat, slight salt and smoke. Toffee. Slick and warming. Vanilla. Grapefruit.

Finish: Salt and slight treacle. Hard toffee and soft fudge. Chocolate – both sweet and dark bitter. Burnt wood. Long lasting and very rich. Strawberry.

Conclusion: This took me by surprise. Previously Id not paid much attention to this, seeing it as just a lighter peated Islay. But now I’ve sat down and taken time to examine it, I find it to be like a mix of several fractal patterns of flavour, showing detail on every level of examination.

The nose is light and unimpressive, but the body builds and the fudge and dark chocolate finish is a thing of wonder.

Complex and just peaty enough- a remarkable and wonderful Islay. Very impressive.

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