The Bowmore distillery on Islay was built in 1779, at least that’s the claim made by their marketeers. This would make Bowmore one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland! It is currently own by the Suntory Group of Japan. Bowmore has a style of its own which has many enthusiastic fans, including myself. They’re not heavily peated like Laphroaig, Ardbeg or Lagavulin, yet you know you’re drinking an Islay scotch with its smoky finish. Bowmore still makes its own maltings, although the three malt floors only produce about a third of all its malting needs. The rest is produced in nearby Port Ellen.
Bowmore has a popular core range including the 12, 15 and 18 year olds. However, for this tasting we’re also going to explore more exotic bottlings from independent bottlers including cask strength whiskies. In my experience, these bottlings often don’t taste at all like the classic core range bottlings and I would never guess the whisky I’m drinking comes from that particular distillery. For those of you not great fans of Bowmore, I think this tasting might change your mind! Four of the featured whiskies for this tasting so far include:
Bowmore 12 y.o. (The Darkest) – The 12 year old is the entry level scotch in the Bowmore lineup. I’m not certain, but I think it spends a little time in a sherry cask. It’s a great beginner whisky into the smoky world of Islay with just hints of smoke and peat.
Creative Whisky Company 12 y.o., Single Cask – Bottled out of Scotland and sold mostly in the U.S., they occasionally come into the Canadian market. This lovely 12 y.o. expression was distilled in 2002 and bottled at 56.6%.
Bowmore 15 y.o. (The Darkest) – A 15 year old released in January of 2007 which is now part of their core range. This single malt has enjoyed maturation in Oloroso sherry casks. In my opinion, it’s the best value over the 12 y.o. and the 18 y.o.
Laimrig 15 y.o. Cask Strength – In 2011, Bowmore released a cask strength version of the 15 y.o. and it didn’t disappoint. They’re up to batch 4 now and if you ever see this in stores (usually at the BC stores before Xmas), you should get this! It’s matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished for about a year in Oloroso sherry butts.
SMWS (Genie in a Bottle, Single Cask) – As some of you already know, I’m very fond of these independent bottlers. They never disappoint! This one has the nose of a well-used wooden pipe rack. The sherry butt finish, which is common for SMWS Bowmore releases, should give it a nice dry finish. It’s bottled at 56.6% and distilled in 1994.
SMWS (Record Shop at the Races, Single Cask) – I chose this bottle because it’s not finished in a sherry cask, like the previous one. This will be a good opportunity to compare two single casks from the same distillery in different styles. From what I’ve read, this one should be softer with floral notes, and not as peated. It’s bottled at 55.7% and distilled in 2001.
Wilson & Morgan 22 y.o., Single Cask – Wilson & Morgan, independent bottlers, are actually based in Italy, and is linked to the history of the Venetian wine merchants family, Rossi. Distilled in 1990, this expression is finished in PX Sherry casks at 46.8%. Apparently, the angels really really liked this one! This bottle has been sitting on my shelf for 3 years!