The Bowmore Scotch Valentine Competition – Ends Monday 11th!

Please note the change in timings! The competition closes at 11am on Monday 11th February and the Twitter tasting date is on Wednesday 13th February.

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Readers of my posts on whisky will know that one of the distilleries that I’m particularly fond of is Bowmore. Most of the expressions remind me somewhat of the sea, given where it’s made and the fact that I’ve taken it along to most of my seaside whisky tastings, so it’s a thoroughly relaxing, contemplative drink that’s close to my heart.

How appropriate, then, that for Valentine’s this year, Bowmore are running a competition during which they are revealing a new expression of their whisky. Two lucky winners will receive invitations to a special Valentine’s “Twitter tasting date” with Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, and thirteen other panelists from the whisky world.

Winners will receive a whisky bouquet (what an excellent idea!) containing three of the classic Bowmore whiskies, plus the exclusive new expression (a work-in-progress, no less), which Rachel will go through via Twitter, using the hashtag #loveBowmore.

The tasting takes place on Wednesday 13th February at 19:00 and you’ve only got until Monday (11th February) at 11am to enter the competition. To do so, enter at the Bowmore Facebook page.

Bowmore Enigma

Bowmore Enigma

One of the Bowmore whiskies that I haven’t written about yet is Enigma, a 12 year old that we picked up in duty free on a trip to France. Designed to reflect the duality of land and sea at the distillery on Islay, Enigma is a lovely, dark gold colour.

Nose: Warm and savoury to start, developing into slightly sweeter notes of sherry and brandy. Rounding off with straw and oatcakes, and a lovely, honeyed peatiness. A lovely, interesting and yet still wonderfully balanced nose.
Taste: A burst of sweet peat, which quickly gives way to a more smoky peatiness. This is followed by lots of neat notes of sherry-soaked wood that develop and change with each sip. The finish is deliciously warm and slightly fruity – that sherry once again making itself known – before a final note that has perplexed me for a little while; I’ve finally concluded that it’s a note of chewy, salted caramel oat cakes.

In Conclusion

Needless to say, Bowmore remains one of my favourite distilleries. I’ll certainly be having a glass of Enigma on Valentine’s Day; with it’s combination of peaty and sherry notes, I think that it’s perfect to share and explore with good friends (or after a romantic dinner!). If you fancy something richer and sweeter, Bowmore Darkest works particularly well alongside chocolate.

– Mrs. B.

Mrs. B tastes… Bowmore Small Batch Reserve

I’ve had whisky paired with chocolate, I’ve had whisky with popcorn, and I’ve had whisky with a pecan yum yum; I’ve even had it with fish & chips, as you may have read in my first post on Talisker, but, as of yesterday, I had yet to have had any Scotch with ice-cream.

Given the sudden heatwave that we find ourselves in, the suggestion from DBS that I sip some of the new Bowmore Small Batch Reserve along with some vanilla ice-cream and macaroons sent especially for the purpose (the whisky and the macaroons, that is, not the ice-cream, for obvious reasons) was met most positively by myself.

There is, however, a reason for my trying this beyond the start of the British summer. This month, Bowmore Distillery have released their new Bowmore Small Batch Reserve. This is a lighter expresion of their already characteristically smooth, but flavourful spirit, and one that was inspired by the recent increase in the number of special, small batch whiskies available.

As such, it is made in small quantities and matured in a selection of first- and second-batch Bourbon casks that have been chosen by hand. Already fond of Bowmore’s other bottlings, I was excited to try this new creation.

Nose: An interesting mix of light, vanilla sugar and peat to start. Hints of dry porridge oats followed and, after a while, it softened and sweetened considerably, like caramelised pecans with a smoky edge. DBS also caught light hints of malt, like that of beer. Ten minutes or so later, the nose had sweetened even more, becoming almost syrupy and reminding me a little of flapjack.

Taste: My first sip of this was soft and yet deliciously smoky at the same time; I was intrigued by this soft, and yet by no means weak, smokiness. After a couple more sips, more fresh, fruity notes started to come through, all slightly tart. These moved onto more savoury notes: lovely, vibrant, fresh wood and almond, fading into a smoky peat. The finish is – again – lovely and refreshing, with notes of sweet citrus.

With vanilla ice-cream and macaroons:
The smooth, rich vanilla of the ice-cream brings out the vanilla in the whisky and the intense creaminess brings out the fresh, citrus notes. The macaroons had a melt-in-the-mouth quality, which went well with the smoothness of the whisky, and the almond and rice paper notes complement the savoury aspects of the spirit.
I find myself rather fond of this whisky already. It has an elegance and a mystery to it, with its unusual and yet perfectly balanced combination of flavours, and that wonderfully soft, but strong peatiness in partcular.

What’s more, it was delicious with vanilla ice-cream, making it a first class way to both cool down and enjoy a glass in the summer sunshine (best, I’d imagine, when it’s, like its home distillery, by the sea!).

– Mrs. B.

Bowmore Small Batch Reserve – RRP £32.99 for 70cl

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.