Current Price: Approximately GBP 1,600 – GBP 2,500
The 1960’s were considered as a golden era for the Bowmore Distillery. This was the same time when the distillery produced the now legendary Black, White and Gold Bowmore series. Hence getting your hands on any spirit from this period is definitely a stroke of good luck. Fortunately a friend of mine sent me a sample of the now hard to find 37 year old Bowmore which was distilled way back in 1968. At 43.4% ABV, only 708 bottles of this whisky were bottled and I had a sample from bottle number 284. This was definitely going to be interesting.
Nose: It all begins with a lot of sweet notes honey, sugarcane and even sweet spices too. Strong earthy notes and wood make a strong appearance. There is peat but it makes a really fleeting appearance. Towards the end there’s some citrus based aromas possibly swaying more in the direction of a lemon tart or lemon cheesecake maybe.
Palate: There’s definitely a honey like sweetness that greets your tongue as soon as the spirit comes in contact with it, however it’s quite restrained and hence not overly sweet. This one has a really oily palate. What comes through very strongly is the flavors of various red and blue berries. It’s almost like someone had emptied a box full of these fruits in the whisky. At 43.4% the impact this creates is quite nice. There is some mild spice and some herbal notes too.
Finish: With so much of those berries of the palate it was probably no surprise that they’d made their presence very clearly felt on the finish too. There are also slight traces of peat along with some woody notes. Bowmore’s have never been known to be overly peaty however in this case how rarely the peat makes its way through is quite surprising. I’d say this one has a moderately long finish.
Overall while this is probably not a Bowmore that packs a massive punch its definitely a very easy going, smooth and thoroughly enjoyable drink.
Current Status: Limited Availability with a few retailers in Europe at approximately GBP 200+
So as I mentioned in my previous review.. tonight was the night of the Devil’s.. I started with Arran and now time for this Bowmore.. which is a small batch release matured exclusively in first fill Sherry casks. That by the way is pretty evident from the lovely ruby color that this spirit possesses.
Nose: Bowmore often mentions maturing its finest whiskies in its legendary No. 1 vaults by the sea.. well if you ever wanted some help in imagining how that place would have felt.. this expression can give you nose… the smells of that peaty spirit maturing in those sherry casks.. along with rows of the other casks.. the dampness that comes from being right next to sea.. it all right there. After this brief introduction comes the first fill sherry influence… the cotton candy.. maple syrup.. black grapes.. basically a lot of sweetness.. and there’s a touch of perfection to it
Palate: The darkness of this expression slowly begins to reveal itself further as you move to the palate a lot more of those black grapes and sweet dark berries along with some mild notes of peat. This one has a very rich palate with each flavor coming out nice and strong. Initially the spice is more of clove and as the spirit oxidizes its more peppery spice that comes through. This is accompanied by some liquorice too.
Finish: A fairly long finish .. which leaves a mildly dry feeling in your mouth .. with some wood shaving and the final showing of the darkness with some sweet dry black raisins
Even at 56.3% there’s an exceptional smoothness to this both on the palate as well as on the finish.
On this particular night .. its this Devil from Islay that has got me smiling ‘devil’ishly at the end of it all!!
Current Status: Limited availability with a few retailers in Europe at approximately GBP 200+ & an on auction sites too
Very often when you buy a special ‘distillery only’ release(even if its from Ardbeg) you wonder if it’s worth the additional premium you need to pay to acquire it. Well with one.. I can surely say that I’m one extremely satisfied customer.
Nose: The journey begins with the familiar whiffs of peat and iodine.. like you have reached good old Islay once again. Further probing brings outs the juicy cantaloupes and rip honeydew. There is also candied sweets in the mix. The distinct iodine notes now mellow down to a more eucalyptus kind of smell which is really nice. Leaving the dram to breathe brings out the wood and caramel form the bourbon cask along with some bananas and oranges. The nose does have a lot to offer in this one.
Palate: The palate isn’t too sweet to begin with. But that isn’t a problem really. There are oranges and a fair bit of pepper that come together. Also some charred/grilled meat in there too. Add to that some over 60% dark chocolatey notes. The sherry cask gradually begins to show its impact with a mild dryness that envelopes the mouth. The second sip brings a lot fresh cut fruits. Again a very fine mix of various flavors that come out from this creamy dram.
Finish: The end is smokey with peat, wood and mild pepper, coffee notes coming through. Once again there is dryness that is left behind at the end of this possibly from the Sherry cask
Another Ardbeg that has left a lasting impression!! Slainte!!
Current Status: Scarcely available on auction sites at more than four times the initial price
When it comes to Ardbeg I expect a strong and robust offering. However when it came to tasting the much famed Ardbeg 17, the experience was, well, not exactly matching my expectations.
Nose: Delicate is not a word I have used to describe Ardbegs in the past but this is exactly the first thing that comes to your mind when your nose is greeted with all the fruity notes. I’d say a bit of tangerines, apricots and lime. The longer you left the more it seemed like dehydrated fruit pieces of pineapple. Now there are traces of the peat in there but they are all hidden well below the top notes.. and one had to really dig them out. There’s also some eucalyptus oil that you can find. Did get some damp mud notes in there as well.
Palate: The first sip has an usually sweet start that quickly disappears and gets replaced with a lot of sooty notes. The sweet is more on the sugar syrupy side. You do find some mild peppery spiciness initially which does get a lot more pronounced by the second sip. For me the palate was this expression’s weakest part with not much to offer.
Finish: This one has a fairly nice finish with licorice, pepper, some mild fruit notes and finally a lot of spearmint. By the time you have the second sip the spearmint flavors tend to linger much long giving it a nice ending.
All in all this is one Ardbeg that you’re bound to have the house divided on in terms of their opinions. You’d either really like it for its uniqueness or you won’t due to your liking for a certain delivery that you’ve come to expect from this distillery.
Current Status: Quite easily available with most whisky retailers globally
Ok, so Amrut is one distillery that has a very special place both in my heart as well as in my bar..possibly because its Indian to start with. Secondly and more importantly it has consistently been bringing out some very tastefully made expressions which has been a delight to savor.
This was the first time I was having Amrut’s Peated Cask Strength expression and as always I went in with high expectations:
Nose: Wow!! That was an instant reaction to what I nosed… There was a lot of wood and vanilla coming from the bourbon cask.. wet mud that literally took me back to the rainy season in India .. Sweet ripe oranges, guavas and some mangoes as well. Along with all of this there was always some restrained peat that kept raising its head in the background
Adding a few drops of water brought some banana and caramel for me..
Palate: This is when the peat came out much more prominently.. with a lot more of fruity notes that were carried forward from the nose.. combined with a tiny sprinkling of white pepper for the spice.. The genius though I suppose lies in the fact that at 62.8% this whisky is extremely smooth and completely not overpowering
Water bring out more citrus and a lot more spice.. which to be honest isn’t as pleasant as it at cask strength
Finish: Continued fruity notes and mild spices and finally signing off with peat fumes and smoke which leave a nice warm feeling inside you for quite a while
The Verdict: One more Amrut that has exceeded expectations!! Have this ONLY at cask strength to enjoy it the most.. Slainte!!
Current Status: Available with limited retailers in Europe at GBP 200+ and with auction houses
So, I hadn’t really done too many Bunnahabhain’s before this one but I must admit that as an Islay whisky fan.. a festival release from this distillery did feature in the ‘must buy’ list for me. This 10 year old expression has been matured for 9 years in a Bourbon cask and one year in a Marsala Wine Cask before being bottled at 56.7%.
Nose: The effects of a year in the Marsala cask can been seen right from the first notes that greet your nose. The whiffs of peat that come through are a lot sweeter than usual and very pleasing too. As soon as you move past them there’s a lot of red apples and pears that reveal themselves. Eventually the woody notes from the Bourbon Cask follow through and after a bit of oxidization there’s more of the original Islay peat and iodine with some notes of citrus in there too.
Palate: This is probably the strongest aspect of this expression. A nice creamy and smooth delivery does make for a very pleasant experience. A lot berries .. more apples and some sprinkling of spices. Possibly some white pepper there as well.
Finish: More berries that follow through from the palate and some cinnamon too with some more wood . Finally some smoke to sign off leaving you with a nice warm feeling
All in all this a really nice dram… Whether or not it is worth the premium pricing tag that comes with any festival release is debatable.. but for some one who’s already bought it and tasted it too .. I can safely say I’m very happy!
Current Status: Scarcely available on auction sites at more than double the initial price
One of the reason why I am big fan of the Octomore series is the sheer brilliance of Master Distiller Jim McEwan to bring out a set of expressions where the ridiculously high peat levels in the young spirit get camouflaged by an array of excellent notes on the nose, palate and the finish. This time though Jim has gone ahead and added a completely new twist to the tale by taking the spirit through a unique quadruple distillation process and then maturing it for 7 years in an Oloroso cask to bring out, what is in my opinion, an Octomore that is completely unique in comparison to any of its predecessors.
You know it’s unique because the moment you bring it to your nose you are greeted by an uncharacteristic but extremely pleasant sweetness. It’s almost like you were taken to the warehouse where the whisky was matured and were made to stand right next to sherry cask in which the spirit lay and the lovely smells of sweet sherry and the wood from the cask fill the air. What then follows are lots of lemon and pear and more sweetness from candy. Given the fact that this an Octomore your nose does go looking for the peat and the iodine that do eventually make a guest appearance but you’ve really got to be patient to catch them. Adding a bit of water also brought out some coffee notes for me.
As soon as the whisky hits your tongue it’s the sweetness again that comes first.. more powdered sugar though. This is when finally the peat makes a full fledged appearance.. but then the dosage is absolutely spot on.. there is also a bit of dryness coupled with a fair sprinkling of peppery spice that begins to develop as you roll it in your mouth. I have to say though this is one extremely smooth and creamy spirit.. and its just lovely.
Finally the finish is fairly long … nice amounts of peat once again.. still not overdoing anything.. along with a smooth velvety finish possibly from the Oloroso.
At 69.5% ABV this is one whisky that has a lot of character, isn’t overpowering at all.. instead extremely smooth in its delivery and balance.
As I mentioned at the start this is a completely uncharacteristic Octomore.. and that for some could be the only downside there is to this expression given that they expect a certain flavor profile from this series.. For me though it just worked superbly and as usual I continue to be a fan of Jim and the Octomore..Slainte!