The hills of Beverly were once again host to a gregarious group of imbibers; our sights for this meeting were set on cask strength sherry aged Bowmore. If anything could help overcome the OB funk in Bowmore i should be sherry right? Well we’ll find out below but first, a little backstory on Bowmore.
Bowmore Timeline via Malt Madness
- 1779 – Founded
- 1922 – Bowmore goes up for sale
- 1925 – Bought by Sherriff’s Bowmore Distillery
- 1950 – Bought by William Grigor & Sons Ltd.
- 1963 – Bought by Stanley P. Morrison Ltd.
- 1994 – Bought by Suntory (80’s – mid 90’s was the FWP era)
Some interesting bits of trivia about Bowmore
- Bowmore is the, or the major, peated whisky in the Rob Roy and Black Bottle blended whiskies.
- The distillery has 3 malting floors but only 1/3 of the malt they need is made at the distillery, the rest comes from mainland Scotland.
- The distillery turned one of their old warehouses into the MacTaggart Leisure Centre which has a swimming pool that’s heated by excess heat from the distillery.
- Their whisky tends to clock in around 25 PPM
- Stanley P. Morrison Ltd. who once owned Bowmore also owns A.D. Rattray which is likely why AD Rattray bottlings of Bowmore tend to be quite good. Tim (defendant) knew where all the good casks were.
Like all Malt Nuts tasting this sherried Bowmore tasting was done blind though before we got into the Bowmores Barry had a surprise for us. The head Malt Nut had setup a totally unknown tasting for us to go through before we dug into the Bowmores which turned out to be a really interesting way to start the evening.
Malt Nuts Sherried Bowmore Tasting Round Breakout
- Blackadder Black Snake Tasting
- Independently Bottled
- Devils Casks 2 & 3
- IB vs OB
Enough talking, lets see how they taste!
Blackadder Black Snake Tasting
A: Blackadder Black Snake Vat 3 – Venom 1: 56.1% – ex-Bourbon & ex-Oloroso
- Nose: Fruit, cocoa, malt, oily nuts, dark sweets and cinnamon.
- Palate: Malt, fruit, honey, sherry, nuts, dark sweets and vanilla.
- Finish: Long -> Malt, fruit, honey, nuts and sherry.
- Overall: B (83-86) Definitely on the higher end of the B range. It’s a nice whisky with a light sherry character and a nutty malty undertone.
B: Blackadder Black Snake Vat 1 – Venom 3: 58.9% – ex-Bourbon & ex-Oloroso
- Nose: Fruit, honey, toffee, malt, banana, ash and vanilla.
- Palate: Malt, toffee, ash, nuts, dried fruit, nuts and a bit of orange.
- Finish: Long -> Malt, toffee, dried fruit and orange peels that fades out metallic.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Warm and coppery with a lot dried fruit notes that all turns to a metallic-alkaline-minerally thing at the end. Think of biting tin foil on a tooth with a filling. Or touching your tongue to a 9-volt battery.
C: Blackadder Black Snake Vat 5 – Venom 1: 57.5% – ex-Bourbon & ex-PX
- Nose: Chocolate, dried strawberries, vanilla, caramel, taffy, malted milk and spice.
- Palate: Cocoa, dried fruit, sherry toffee, malt and copper.
- Finish: Long -> Cocoa, fruit, malt, graham and spice.
- Overall: B (83-86) Not bad. It comes across hotter than B despite having less alcohol and even with water it’s a bit hot on the delivery, but still, it’s a pleasant whisky.
So what heck are Blackadder Black Snakes? Well they’re solera single malts setup by Blackadder. They use sherry butts to hold whisky from a single, unnamed, distillery which they dump 1/2 of to bottle each release, called a venom, and then fill it back up. Being that it’s Blackadder they’re likely Glenfiddich and Balvenie.
Malt Nuts Sherried Bowmore Tasting – Independently Bottled
1A: Signatory Bowmore 12 years (01-14): 59.1% – Refill Sherry Butt
Nose: Sherry, smoke, dried dark fruit, sulfur, cinnamon, nuts, leather and blackberry sour cream.
Palate: Grilled fruit, sherry, smoke, dark fruit, sulfur, berry sound cream, cinnamon and leather.
Finish: Long -> Sherry, dark fruit, sulfur and cinnamon.
Overall: B+ (87-89) This is a solid B+ that is tiptoeing the line to being an A-. It’s everything Bowmore should be, this is great.
1B: Hepburn’s Choice Bowmore 14 years (01-16): 54.4% – Refill Sherry Butt
- Nose: Dark and funky, leather, dried dark fruit, juicy cherries, peat, dark sweets, citric acid, leather and cinnamon oil.
- Palate: Dried dark fruit, malt, leather, caramel, jammy fruit, cherries and citric acid.
- Finish: Long -> Ash, cocoa, malt, leather and peat.
- Overall: A- (90-92) This was awesome, such a good representation of that ultimate combo of peat-n-sweet.
Malt Nuts Sherried Bowmore Tasting – Bowmore Devil’s Casks 2 & 3
2A: Bowmore Devil’s Casks Batch 2 10 Years: 56.3% – First Fill Sherry Casks (Oloroso)
- Nose: Burnt plastic, charred fruit, nuts, roasted malt, peat, overly sweet jam and a sharp metallic note.
- Palate: Burnt plastic, roasted malt, char, ash, super sweet jam, acidic and a bit smoky. Peat kind of lost on the palate.
- Finish: Long -> Dried fruit, plastic, peat, nuts and over-done cobbler.
- Overall: B- (80-82) With those burnt notes and metallic notes converging I knew this was an OB Bowmore right away. It’s such a dead give away that it almost felt like cheating.
2B: Bowmore Devils’s Casks Batch 3: 56.7% – First Fill Oloros & PX
- Nose: Sherry, nutty, plastic, peat, menthol, dark fruit, citric acid and copper.
- Palate: Peat, plastic, jammy fruit, dark fruit, oak and dried cherry.
- Finish: Long -> Dried fruit, plastic, peat, nuts and char.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Touch tannic and acidic with a jammy fruity punch. Meh.
Malt Nuts Sherried Bowmore Tasting – IB vs OB
3A: A.D. Rattray Bowmore 17 years (97-14): 55.8% – Sherry Butt
- Nose: Peat, sulfur, ozone, roasted malt, nuts. charred fruit, raspberries, leather and clove.
- Palate: Peat, sulfur, neck, malt, nuts, clove, Canadian mints, cinnamon and cocoa.
- Finish: Long -> Orchard fruit, smoke, oil, nuts and clove.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Yeah this is good and definitely not an OB. The most interesting thing about this dram is the strong apple note that flowed through the finish. Quite nice.
3B: Bowmore Laimrig 15 Years: 54.1% – ex-Sherry
- Nose: Buttery fruit, grain, dark fruit, smoke, malt, dark sweets, cinnamon and metal.
- Palate: Buttery fruit, dark fruit buttercream frosting, peat, charred malt, clove acetone.
- Finish: Long -> Sherry, charred nuts and metal.
- Overall: B- (80-82) It was moving towards a C+ and my first thought when tasting this was “OB Bowmore”.
Malt Nuts Sherried Bowmore Tasting – “Bonus”
X: Bowmore 16 years (1989): 51.8% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Soapy FWP
- Palate: Soapy FWP
- Finish: Soapy FWP
- Overall: F (0-59) This wasn’t part of the actual tasting, but the head Malt Nut Barry pulled it out at the end after our discussion of the foul soapy FWP (French Whore Perfume) Bowmore of the past. It’s every bit as soapy, floral and foul as I remember from previously tasting these infamous bottles. No fruit, no char, no metal no smoke just soap… yuck
That acrid burnt-hazelnut-meets-metal weirdness is a signature note that’s hard to miss in OBs. That’s the note I don’t like and why I’m not a big fan of OB Bowmore. It’s rarely found in IB Bowmore which is why I tend to gravitate towards them – they’re almost always good.
This predisposition to not liking OB Bowmore is why I was looking forward to this tasting, to see if it was all in my head or not… it’s not. I went into this being pre-disposed to not liking OB Bowmore and liking IB Bowmore and I came out of it even more so.
Though what does this biult in prejudice mean for the future? Could this lead me to ignore possibly great OB bottles down the road? Could it lead my tastes to warp and change if the character of the IBs do as well since that’s all I’ll be buying? Probably. It’s an interesting thought to entertain. Anyways, until next time – Cheers!