Review: BOWMORE 1992 bordeaux cask 16yo – #40 hit

French Whore’s Perfume?

French Whore’s Perfume is a term coined to certain Bowmore bottlings that was considered to be of very poor quality due to notes of lavender, soap, violet and other strong perfume fragrances. It is said that the notorious era of FWP (French Whore’s Perfume) stretched from the early 80’ies to the early 90’ies. This leaves this edition in the danger zone and I actually wish I hadn’t heard about FWP as it prevents me from being completely unbiased in this matter. So should I pass this bottle on to my grandmother or is it worth a space on my shelf?Bowmore 1992 16yo

Phew! This bottle has not been compromised. Or maybe I should say not completely compromised because the floral fragrances are certainly present, just not to the extent of ruin. Considering that this limited edition 1992 vintage single malt  has aged in bourbon casks for six years and then ten years in Bordeaux wine casks there is no wonder that floral and fruity notes would appear on the palate. With most Islay whiskies the sweet fruity flavors that may be present are often concealed by a heavy layer of peaty smoke. This is not the case here however and I am actually a bit surprised by the relative absence of the familiar bonfire taste. Instead of smoke you are overwhelmed by waves of seasalt, pepper, and minerals; especially towards the finish. I find the entry more round, creamy and gentle with hints of sherried fruits and walnuts. I really like the balance in this single malt.

VERDICT: This Bowmore has not been FWP’ed and gives you a unique experience with its combination of maritime notes and red fruits. It packs a punch with its 53,3% abv. yes, but not enough to justify adding water in my opinion. All in all a good Islay dram.

  (8.2/10)

Review: BOWMORE 12yo – #3 hit

Straight out of the shores of Loch Indaal the 12 year old Bowmore comes from one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Back in 1999 when I just started to get into scotch I got this bottle as a present. I had never tasted Islay whisky before and I remember that I was not overly impressed at that time. I was more into sweet whiskies like Dalwhinnie and Balvenie. Apparently I was not ready for it back then Bowmore 12but over the years smoky whiskies started to appeal more and more to me. I have a Bowmore now and then especially some of the more aged whiskies. That said I still prefer Laphroaig and Ardbeg over any other Islay single malts.

This single malt is filled with maritime flavors that slowly develop in your mouth. Most dominant are smoke, salt, seaweed, and there is also hints of sherry. I find it a very good traditional Islay single malt that don’t impress you too much with neither complexity nor smoothness.

VERDICT: A good Islay that stands its ground with a tsunami of maritime flavors. Despite its lack of complexity and smoothness I have a sweet spot for this dram, maybe primarily because it has been with me for so long.

(6/10)

Review: ARDBEG 10yo – #11 hit

At 46% abv. & non chill-filtered this whisky is supposed to be the peatiest, smokiest and most complex single malt in the world. If I hadn’t tasted or heard about Ardbeg before I would have regarded this as pure bragging. I guess it is still bragging but maybe in a justified kind of way? I mean guys like Jim Murray can’t be wrong. Can they?

If we get a bit nerdy we find out that Ardbeg is far from the most peaty whisky available on the market. As you might know the peating level is expressed as phenols in PPM. The 10 year old Ardbeg contain a phenol level of 52+ PPM whereas the 5 year old Octomore Edition 5.169 of Bruichladdish reach an impressively 169 PPM. Hence there is no question that Octomore claim first place in the smoke category (with at least four different editions). To Ardbeg’s defense the Supernova edition is next in line with 100 PPM. Still you can find Speyside, Campbelltown and Irish whiskies with higher phenol levels than the 10 year old bottling of Ardbeg.ardbeg-10

Nonetheless this dram is very close to perfection. While the wide range of smoky flavors develop in my mouth I picture myself standing on a shore with waves coming in with oily remnants entangled in dark brown seaweed. It IS a smokebomb compared to other Islays like Laphroaig which makes perfectly sense given that the most peated Laphroaig (10yo edition) contain 40-43 PPM phenols. It is not all about smoke and peat though. There is a freshness to it emerging as sea salt and different grassy notes. You also find traces of vanilla and citrus vaguely appearing at the end. The finish is short and there is a moderate after-bite which in my opinion is neglectable.

VERDICT: There isn’t anything not to love about this whisky. The finish may be a bit too short but I don’t think this ruins the experience. Is it the most complex dram in the world? I think this is hard to say, especially considering that I have a long way to go before I’ve tasted all the whiskies out there! At this point I will leave this question to the experts.

  (8/10)

Review: LAPHROAIG 10yo – #66 hit

Laphroaig is one of the oldest distilleries on Islay, if not the oldest, and since I am a dedicated Islay lover I had really high hopes for this one.laphroaig_10

Just before I poured my first glass I noticed it said “the most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies” on the bottle. This is really putting the bar high I thought. I guess it all comes down to how you define “richly flavoured”. It certainly has a distinct taste if that’s what it means. Anyways I love this dram. It starts off with notes of citrus and spring grass along with caramel that quickly turns into something reminiscent of freshly paved tarmac and burning tires. All along the caramel notes linger in the background and perfectly balances the peat and smoke. The finish is soft, light and rather short but still enjoyable. There are no excessive alcohol flavours in this ten year old bottling and it is one of the most approachable Islay whiskies I’ve tasted. Highly recommendable.

VERDICT: I really like the way it enters all sweet and caramel like before it hits you from behind with tarmac and burned rubber. There is good complexity, softness, and sweetness in this very accomplished Islay single malt.

  (8/10)

Review: CAOL ILA 12yo – #59 hit

The 12 year bottling of Caol Ila is one of those whiskies that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. In most people’s views it does not rank with the top players like Lagavulin, Ardbeg, and Laphroaig. Some even mistake it to be a highland whisky. I agree that it lacks the intensity and heavy smoke that characterize the more popular brands from the island. However Caol Ila 12yrs is a very accomplished whisky in its own way. While it defends the spirit of Islay with its mildly peaty notes it also delivers an amazingly high content of sweetness. Most discernible is the subtle notes of citrus fruits, dried apricots, and honey. In addition to balacaol-ila-12yoncing the peat in a very delicate fashion the sweetness is also accompanied by malt, spices and…..fresh dirt. This prevents Caol Ila from being too sweet and give a great depth to it. The only slightly negative I can come to think of is the finish. Even though it starts off with a nice touch of spicy malt it slowly turns into a very noticeable vegetal note of green beans.

VERDICT: One glass quickly became two and before I knew it I had had five drinks. This pretty much says it all. It is very approachable and you don’t really get tired of it. Well not after 5 glasses anyways. I like the way the peat is balanced with notes of dried fruit, something that makes this whisky a great beginner-Islay.

  (7.2/10)

Review: LAPHROAIG Quarter Cask – #51 hit

laphroaig_whisky_distillery

The first thought that ran through my head when I opened my Laphroaig Quarter Cask the other day was “how come I never tasted this whisky before”. Even though I know that this dram is highly regarded among Islay enthusiasts it has never occurred to me that it could be so different to other whiskies from the same island. Having enjoyed several Ardbeg whiskies throughout the years, including Supernova, I never believed that Laphroaig would bring anything new to the table. I was dead wrong.

This whisky makes me reminisce about those carefree Easter Sundays you spent as a child on the beach. Not because of the heaps of seaweed that had washed up on the shore but more because of the huge bonfires that were lit that day every year. Scattered ashes and smoke were everywhere and your nostrils were filled with the aroma. Besides this ever-present smoke there is a very apparent medicinal flavor. I am still a biLaphroaig-quarter-caskt undecided whether I feel it is too much. Meanwhile you have pepper tingling on your tongue and a woody presence underneath the bed of smoke. There is a late arrival of fried bacon, hazelnuts, and dark chocolate. This is a rather unusual combination but still accomplishes to balance the smoke and peat in a very delicate way. On the finish the smoke turns into earthy notes that almost taste like….moulds?

VERDICT: Definitely one of my favorite Islays. What I like the most about Laphroaig Quarter Cask is its ability to be both exceptionally smooth and creamy while delivering an overdose of smoke and peat. The only thing preventing it from reaching my number one is the medicinal notes and the mouldy finish.

  (8.3/10)