Bowmore Coastal Tasting

My quest to explore more Scotch Whisky, beyond liqueurs, has recently led me to Bowmore. I know different people have different thoughts on the best tasting method but I really like trying whiskys of the same range together to get an idea of what a distillery is about.*

Bowmore is situated on the Isle of Islay and was established in 1779. Much of the barley for the Whisky is grown on the Isle of Islay but as supply is insufficient some barley has to be shipped in.** Given the connection with Bowmore and the sea we decided to take a little walk down to a secluded coastal spot for the tasting.

Bowmore 12 Year Old
The nose was fresh and salty, matching the sea air. A slight sweetness came in at the end, but, otherwise, the nose was straightforward and revitalising.
My initial response upon taking a sip was to say, “Ooh, lovely!” (diligently recorded in DBS’s tasting notes). A salty start, probably boosted by the salt on my lips from the sea breeze, was followed by a very smooth, progression from heavy, dark wood notes to lighter ones. The lightest hint of peat appeared on the finish. The comforting, mellow collection of raw, woody notes reminded me strongly of woodland walks during my childhood.
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Bowmore 15 Year Old
The nose of the second whisky was a lot more prominent, in my opinion, although – again – there was lots of wood. On top of this, though, there were some more harsh, varnish-like notes.
Tasting much stronger, the wood notes to this one also had a more substantial and lasting finish of toasted or burnt sugar that had a bitterness to it. I found it considerably less easy-to-drink; as such, it seemed more grown-up; the older brother of the 12 Year Old.
Despite the strength, this was definitely better uncut; even a few drops of water seemed to unbalance it and make it watery.
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Bowmore 18 Year Old
This nose was more like the first than the second, being lighter and fresher, without any notes of varnish. Indeed, there was a rather pleasant hint of burnt toffee.
Like the nose, the taste of this one returns to the style of the first that we tried, only it had a softer mouth-feel, like soft water. Alongside the prominent wood notes were those of oatcakes, reminding DBS of Burns Night – drinking whisky with a plate of haggis, tatties and neeps – prompting him to describe it as “Scotland in a glass.”; a conclusion with which I thoroughly agree. Delicious, and easily my favourite of the three.
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In Conclusion

Although I’m sure some people would disagree with having a whisky tasting so exposed to the elements, no doubt stripping away any more delicate notes or flavours, I thought that our surroundings brought a lot more than they took from our tasting; especially as Bowmore is made by the sea. More than that, it reminded me why I really enjoy whisky; it was great to share and explore both a glass and good conversation whilst winding down, made all the easier by the fresh air.

My favourite, when tasted outdoors, was – without a doubt – the 18 Year Old, with its fresh, but sweet nose, mellow softness, and warm wood and oatcake notes. It is the best whisky that I’ve tried in a good while and one that I look forward to revisiting in the comfort of a cosy armchair.

- Mrs. B.

*Also known as a vertical tasting.

**  Interestingly the waste heat from the distillery is used to heat a public swmming pool in the MacTaggart Leisure centre.