Tag Archives: Glen Garioch

Out With The New, In With The Old

Posted on Saturday 31st of December 2011

This image from the Vancouver riots seems somehow appropriate for 2011. Almost makes me wish I'd been there. Almost makes me wish it (probably) wasn't photoshopped.

By any measure this has been a tumultuous year, 2012 has a lot to live up to it seems. It’s going to need more than the Olympics and a pile of hogwash about the end of the Mayan calender to compete with what 2011 has thrown at our feet. The Arab spring, an increasingly introverted and suicidal Euro, the UK Economy being run by a bunch of public school boys who still don’t understand why the general population can’t simply inherit some money to ease their financial quibbles. In Britain we had riots, marches, fury, extensive government cuts and a Scottish government of increasing popularity making good their promise and laying the framework for the potential dismantling of the UK. In America they had their own economic woes, they had less money than Apple at one point, and then there was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Europe finally caved and went begging to China for spare cash, everyone’s favourite EU leader Berlusconi sadly had to go due to his country managing to have some kind of anti-economy based solely on under age prostitution, ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties, whisky faking and bribery. Angela Merkel proved herself to be the Girl Guide of Europe, David Cameron failed to deny he was a Synthetic Android from the Alien film franchise and Nicholas Sarkozy remained short. China continued to become massiver and massiver and to ignore ever increasing grumbles about its rather lax attitude towards human rights, after all who cares what others think when you have that much disposable income. Greece finally collapsed after years of reliance on an economy based solely on plate breaking and Ireland still writhes in the grip of the great cappuccino famine of 2011. This was also the year of the phone hacking scandal where Rupert Murdoch and his underlings managed to create the buck that never stops. Dictators of the world fell like playing cards in a wind tunnel this year, who can forget the blood lusty, yet satisfying way Colonel Gaddafi was gunned down in the streen, HA! Happy times. The most recent one though was North Korea’s comedy miniature despot Kim Jong-il who died, we can only assume from reading his official biography, from the fact that he never defecated. An impressive feat although it did explain why he spoke utter shit for most of his life. His copycat fat son is everyone’s favourite to win Despots On Ice 2012. Oh, and Bin Laden got shot in the head by Navy Seals. Apparently the reason he wasn’t forcibly extracted back to US soil to stand trial was that he was defending himself with automatic loaded wives, or something like that according to a memo from the CIA. So, a tumultuous year all in all.

But what about the year in Whisky? Well as the above image suggests it was a very good  year for publicity stunts. Dalmore, Macallan, Glenfiddich, Old Pulteney, they all clambered over each other, slavering at the gums like hounds of the baskerville with marketing diplomas. Desperate to conquer the squalid back pages of the press with their fetid little bling bottlings, or to tell us that Jim Murray, the greatest gift to whisky since domestic violence, had endorsed their product with his latest super score. There were other things afoot in whisky as well with the ‘world’ whiskies starting to finally gain the recognition they deserve. People continued to complain about the Ardbeg Committee with staggering levels of naivety, as if it was actually supposed to be some kind of exclusive country club instead of a big, oily marketing engine that runs on raw, self perpetuating nonsense. Maybe in 2012 people will actually stop complaining and realise that it is the way it is and they can’t help it so just stop approaching me at festivals and complaining to me because I happened to work at the distillery for two summers while at uni as if that somehow means I can just call up someone at Moet Hennessey and ‘have a wee word’. Gosh it feels good to get things off your chest. In related Ardbeggy news, the great blender Rachel Barrie left Glenmorangie and headed to the Bowmore/Glen Garioch/Auchentoshan stable and proceeded to say some very encouraging things about future production methods, although I’m still waiting for a reply to a comment I made on her facebook status about doing some more peated Glen Garioch, time will tell. The rush for Port Ellen 11th release drove consumers into a frenzy of mindless violence that ended in further outbreaks of rioting throughout the whisky shops of Europe. Lady Gaga got five cases though.  Whiskyfun turned 9 this year on July 28th, selfishly only 8 days after my own birthday thereby overshadowing that event in the whisky calender for so many people. I’ll get you yet Valentin (shakes fist). There has been much speculation over what Serge will do once Whiskyfun turns 10. However we all know he will convert the site into an online scores auctioneering base where companies bid thousands of euros (or francs depending on how things are looking come August) a time for whatever score he is offering that week. The first score will be 98 points and we know Inverhouse are already putting together a bid for their new non-aged, Iron Bru finished An Cnoc. Good times ahead.

The Hadron Collider, a big player in the whisky scene of 2012? Also don't do what I just did and run a google image search for 'Large Hardon Collider' by mistake.

So what does 2012 hold for whisky? I suspect we will see even higher prices, more fakes, the pointlessness of the ‘most expensive bottle ever sold’ war will spiral into the cosmic belly button of utter despair and consume all who dare venture near, like a black hole of fat, sweaty bollocks. The German Independent Bottling market will continue to blossom providing the best whiskies and the best prices. Kilchoman will continue to get better with age. Richard Patterson will host a tasting in the Large Hadron Collider. Ralfy will move to Sky One. Joel and Neil from caskstrength.net will open for the Pope at Glastonbury. Fred and Stuart Laing will merge into a single, two-headed person like Zaphod Beeblebrox from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Port Ellen 12th release will be released in the style of Red Cross aid parcels in Ethiopia. UN soldiers will throw armfuls of them into baying crowds of angry whisky lovers armed to the teeth with pitchforks and ipads and just hope for the best while a representative from Diageo looks on via a satellite link up and calmly motions to his minions to begin ‘phase 2′. The Olympic opening ceremony will be sponsored by Bruichladdich, Jim McEwan and Boris Johnson will open the show with a beginners guide to Coopering. Octomore will be peated to 1 trillion ppm thus causing a tear in the space time continuum and creating what is known as a ‘phenolic irregularity’. Dave Broom will be the new Doctor Who companion and Martine Nouet will be the new Doctor Who. Daftmill will buy Diageo, George Osborne will retire from politics and re-open Brora with his vast personal fortune and Nick Clegg, finally overwhelmed by his spineless guilt, will commit suicide live on national television by downing a thousand miniatures of Edradour. So an exciting year for us all to look forward to.

Be sure to tune in for Nick Clegg's 'dram with destiny' in 2012.

On a personal note it is difficult to comment too succinctly on a  year that was racked by so much intensity, belt tightening, death and downright misery, purely because for me it was far and away the best year of my life. I travelled and made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, I found a great new job, moved into the best flat I’ve ever lived in with the best flatmate I’ve ever had and I’m in a position where things seem to be looking up. I am, in short, incredibly lucky and I try to realise it every day. So the final tasting of 2011 will be one themed around starting as you mean to go on, at least for as long as possible, I’m not sure how many more great Brora tastings I’ll be able to do..? A worrying thought indeed.

Brora 1970-2002. 32yo. Douglas Laing ‘Old & Rare’. 58.4%. 70cl. 

Huge thanks to Wayne for opening this beauty.

Colour: Straw Gold

Nose: Why do other distilleries bother making peated whisky? This is just another typically perfect early Brora. A myriad of farmyard, industrial, coastal and medical qualities with farminess taking the initial lead. Just beautiful! Opens up slowly with lemon skins, oils, mineral notes, pebbles, sea salt, camphor and tar. Sea air, brine, coal and a perfect underlying waxiness. It’s definitely leaning more towards coastal guises now. Lots of sea spray, lime juice, olive oil, seaweed, white flowers, sandalwood and tcp. It’s just massively fresh and vibrant. Just stunning, lets see if water can improve it even further… With water it just becomes almost hyper coastal, like raw sea water and oysters. Lemon juice, raw peat smoke, old kilns, iodine.

Palate: Massively oily on delivery, like boiler sheds, thick green peats, tar, peat oil, drying medicinal notes, smoked cereals, sea water, green olives in brine, hay, hessian and treacle. Smoked vanilla (?), chilli oatcakes, black pepper, Riesling, melted butter and chopped chives. Shellfish, crab meat, smoked mussels, fresh lemon juice, cured ham and more salt. With water: a really luxurious, elegant peat comes through now, loads of olive oil, bonfire smoke, burning grass, wax, smoked cereals, peppered mackerel and some wonderfully farmy notes of engine oil and horse stables.

Finish: Very long with drying peat smoke, wax, cereals, tar, white pepper, burnt toast, camphor and fish oil.

Comments: Another incredibly Brora, I think the 1970 and 71s were not quite as stellar as the 72s in my opinion. It seems like they were still experimenting and constantly tweaking the recipe, in 1972 they must have got things very right. However, this is all relative as this one is still galaxies ahead of most modern peated malts.

Score: 94/100

Brora 1972-1995. 22yo. OB Rare Malts. 61.6%. 70cl.

This is one of several truly legendary early Broras from the Rare Malts series.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Ouch! The word beast could have been invented for this one. Imagine a peat, honey, salt and turpentine smoothy and you’re not far off. Quite closed even after a long time in glass, aggressive and difficult but even with all that grumpy, miserly austerity it is still quite beautiful. Struck flints, big, raw mineral notes, hay, horse stables, burnt grass and old petrol cans. A true powerhouse whisky. I think we’ll add a bit of water straight away… with a little water it starts to freshen out a bit, salt, lemons, limes and a nice manure quality all start to make themselves felt. Becomes intensely ‘Brora’ with a huge farminess and notes of coal fires, seaweed, parsley and wax. Lets try another little bit of water: it actually got even better, now its super fresh, leafy, smoky and very medicinal. A stunning and perfect mix of all the classic Brora characters. This is one of those whiskies that swims like a fish, it absolutely needs careful time with water to bloom, but when it does, my god it’s magnificent.

Palate: Neat it is an aggressive bag of gravel, wet earth, green, concentrated peat oil and feisty minerals. Some farmyard hints of stables, hay, horses and tar then muesli, rope, wet leaves, coal and mercurochrome. With a first dilution… wow, a perfect profile, all on minty, leafy peats, all kinds of wax, a dazzling array of coastal notes and different oils. Perfect but lets try a little more water anyway… the peat gets even oilier, almost simmering like an old Ardbeg, oily, fat and mouth coating with a wonderfully farmy dirtiness. Superlative notes of seaweed, tar, tcp, bread, olive oil, brine, anchovies, kippers, black and green peppercorns, hummus, matchsticks and more salt. It’s quite incredible really, we’d best stop.

Finish: Ask me in 2013 how it’s coming along

Comments: I’ve wanted to taste this one for a long long time and, thanks to the generosity of Mr Brora (aka Serge) at D-Day I was finally able to. All I can say is these bottles are now expensive for a very good reason, they’re fucking brilliant whisky. Water is essential with this one, even adding it in increments it seems to change drastically with each new dilution. You could literally play for days if you had a full bottle, adding a little water, then a bit more whisky, seeing just how epic you could make it, mind the ‘ground zero’ of perfection if you like. There’s nothing being made anywhere in the world today in my opinion that can hold a candle to this kind of whisky. Maybe for 2012 the industry could look to the past a bit more for future inspiration.

Score: 96/100

Whatever happens next year I hope you can all become happier, wiser and more aware in everything you do and achieve. Enjoy the simple things in life, strive to make things better for yourself and all those around you. And above all, don’t take things too seriously.

Happy Hogmanay from all of us here at Whisky Online. Slante!

Angus. 31/12/2011

Vengeance Is Peat Part 4

Posted on Friday 16th of December 2011

Seeing as this series is in danger of becoming the ‘Rocky’ of whisky blog posts I think this will almost certainly be the last one. After Port Ellen, Ardbeg and Lagavulin it seems logical that we will cover Laphroaig, the final Islay southerner. So unless someone wants to send me a stash of old 73/74 Longrow or early 70s Brora samples then I don’t think we’ll see parts five or six anytime soon.

Anyway, without further prattle and ado…

Laphroaig 20yo. Douglas Laing. OMC. Sherry Hogshead. 50%. 70cl.

Had this sample kicking about for some time, sadly no image to go with it I’m afraid. I adore sherried Laphroaigs though so I’m keen to try this one.

Colour: Dark amber

Nose: A strange kind of grizzly fruitiness at first. Very Laphroaig, loads of tincture, iodine, tcp and other medicinal qualities but with a lovely metallic edge like wet iron and steel wool. Smoky bacon, dried herbs and salt, bacon crisps? Flat cola, peat, cola cubes, hot tar, rope, root beer, wet earth and hints of dark rum. Quite a superlative nose really, great distillery character but with that classic, surprisingly clean, sherry slant. Unctuous, leafy, salty and thick with big notes of liquorice, key lime pie, lemon curd, wax, hessian, flints and other assorted mineral notes. Gets quite briny with a thick and turfy peat quality with some nice dried dark fruits. Great stuff, very enjoyable.

Palate: Massive, syrupy peat on delivery with big drying sherry right behind it, reminds me a little of some old peated Glen Gariochs (high praise indeed) with more earth, dried mushrooms, tcp, mouthwash, liquorice, charcoal, barbecue sauce and some lovely green fruits. Very medicinal, lots of medical sub complexities with big herbal liqueur qualities as well. Baked apples, smoked mussels, creosote, cola syrup, tobacco and seaweed soup. A perfect balance of sweet and dry.

Finish: Lemon curd again, fresh oysters, brine, menthol toothpaste, hessian, creosote, tar, tcp, wax and fading green fruits.

Comments: I really love Laphroaig in sherry and this one doesn’t disappoint. Displays the very best attributes of the modern style and is probably helped a lot by a top notch sherry cask. Clean, vibrant, resinous and powerful. Douglas Laing seem to have a had quite a few of these fresh sherry cask Laphroaigs from the late 1980s recently. Lets hope there are still plenty to come because they’ve all been great so far.

Score: 91/100

Laphroaig 1981-2008. 27yo. OB. Five oloroso sherry casks. 736 bottles. 56.6%. 70cl. 

Huge thanks to Nick for this one.

Colour: Dark Rosewood

Nose: A different level of sherry entirely. Super thick and intense with a much more subdued level of peat. At first its all on fresh tar and concentrated aromas of charcoal, dates, prunes, figs and other dark fruits. Lots of sultanas stewed in cognac, furniture polish, salted brazil nuts, chocolate, molasses, natural caramel and hot fudge. A very rare instance where the sherry has taken over from the peat, quite a potent cask selection indeed. Definitely need time. With a bit of patience it starts to become much more tropical and accessible. There is also a much bigger coastal presence, lots of wet rocks, seaweed, beach bonfires, iodine and kipper notes. Some resin, wax and putty as well with a slowly encroaching aged peat quality in the background. Very earthy, dry, thick and syrupy. Notes of cola and gomme syrups and something like redcurrant jam. With water: a tropical fruit and nut cocktail now. Lots of soft tropical notes on top of crushed walnuts, pecans and salted almonds. Then lighter vegetal qualities, more tar, geraniums and salted dark chocolate.

Palate: Neat it is a powerhouse of a Laphroaig, orange bitters, peated marmalade (what) burnt wood, barbecue sauce, masses of molasses (ha), herb liqueur, rancio, wild mushrooms, cola cubes again, bacon, brown sauce, tar, lashings of medicine and a warehouse full of dark, fruit laden sherry. Drying and moist like swallowing a whole Guinness cake. Loads of mixed nuts, phenols, quince jelly, muesli, juniper, gentian root, root beer, coal, creosote, salt cured meats and bovril. A monster of a Laphroaig, but more so because of the sherry than the peat it has to be said. With water: ok it’s softer but it is still very drying, thick and syrupy. Lots of fat eucalyptus notes, seaweed, tar, smoked fish and black pepper. A smattering of mineral notes and then more leafy fruitiness, orange and lemon notes with bay leaves, thyme and ginseng tea.

Finish: Incredibly long, like waiting for the credits to roll on Return Of The King. You practically have to scrape your mouth clean of peated sherry afterwards. Buy a new toothbrush!

Comments: In any other whisky this level of sherry would be too much for me and I’d be tempted to mark it down but the sheer power and force of personality that Laphroaig possess seems to have held everything together brilliantly, although I doubt these casks would have made it to 30. Fantastic, a whisky for those that like them black and potent (unless you’re a Loch Dhu fan in which case you’re on the wrong blog). Anyway, a real power house dram, intense, extreme and brilliant.

Score: 94/100

Laphroaig 1964-1981. Berry Brothers & Rudd. Sherry cask. 43%. 75cl.

Sadly no picture for this one. A rightly legendary bottling from Berry Bros.

Colour: Amber/Brown

Nose: A stunning combination of resinous peat, crystalised and tropical fruits and perfect sherry. This is followed by super dense coastal notes, raisins, wet earth, coal dust, aged cognac, smoked almonds, marzipan, hints of rancio and a little aged antiseptic. Just brilliant, one of those perfect noses. Ancient dry phenols, peat, wax and little dustiness. Then fresh oysters, preserved lemons, smoked mussels, camphor, and some phenomenal vegetal and herbal notes. I could go on but I might never taste it, a staggering nose.

Palate: Enormous, fat, drying, dusty, organic peat. Completely covers and engages every part of the palate, then an avalanche of tropical fruits, an incredible delivery. Develops along more complex lines with dark brown sugar, old vanilla, honey, camphor, pine resin, huge herbaceous notes and a big growing saltiness. Notes of salted beef, sarsaparilla, gentian eau de vie, root beer, dark chocolate, seaweed and yet more drying peats. Lets stop this wonderful, wonderful madness.

Finish: Long and filled with waxy peat, herbs, vegetal, earthy and coastal qualities. Then finally a mineral and beautiful fade.

Comments: One of those bottlings that makes you remember why you’re into whisky in the first place. Massive at 43% in a way that only Laphroaig seems to be able to pull off. A masterpiece of complexity, poise, intensity, length and balance. Brilliant!

Score: 95/100


A legendary old Samaroli bottling of Laphroaig

Laphroaig 1970-1986. Duthie for Samaroli. 720 bottles. 54%. 75cl. 

No much needs saying about this legendary bottling. Eternal gratitude to Patrick for these last two drams.

Colour: Straw Gold

Nose: A mesmerising combination of seashore, coastal and fresh peat aromas. Hugely complex with lashings of citrus, oysters, salt, iodine, mint, kippers, white pepper and old rope. Develops onto tar, seaweed, coal dust and, after time, luscious notes of fresh lime juice. Then eucalyptus oils, more pristine saltiness and massive notes of brine that lend the whole nose a stunning freshness. Just incredible really. Perfectly dry and a complex with exceptionally elegant notes of minerals, smoked tea, old style peat and, eventually, fruit. The fruit is perfectly tropical but also surprisingly resinous and crystallised which lends the whole profile an extra layer of depth and complexity. With water: some super salty blue cheese, lemon juice, papaya, coal dust again, more minerals, buttered toast, herbs, shellfish and peat oils.

Palate: A tropical whirlwind. Just epic amounts of passion fruits, guavas, greengages, melons and lemons. Absolutely brilliant delivery. Further notes of fragrant smoke, black pepper, smoked cereals, tar, green peat and motor oil. Still massively coastal and balanced. With water: Not too much change, the coastal aspects got a bit bigger till they’re almost equal to the fruits. Layers and layers of complexity that I can’t even begin to get into now, salty, tropical, oily, peaty and medicinal in myriad ways, it just keeps on going…

Finish: No comment!

Comment: An utter masterpiece. This is the sort of bottle that really sets the bar for all others to be measured against. At least I think it does.

Score: 96/100

Well that ties up this little series of masterpieces quite nicely. It’s been a pretty devastating path of uninterrupted peaty beauty, one that leads only to the point where you could instantly start again or go for something new and equally mind blowing. We’re all searching for the new, the unknown bottling, all seeking the next hidden masterpiece. Sadly, as with all whiskies of this calibre, that is not always an option and one day, probably in the not too distant future, it will stop being an option for every body. These bottles wont last forever, the liquid will inevitably die, although, long before that happens, they will already be out of grasp to any buyer. When there are only three and then two bottles left of the Laphroiag 1970 or the Port Ellen 1969, what will happen then? I think distillers should be made to taste whiskies like these ones, if the people that make whisky don’t know how good it can be, if they don’t fully comprehend the organoleptic heights to which these spirits can soar then how can we ever hope to make whisky this good again. There are many who say it can’t be done but that is complete baldershit if you ask me. It is purely a recipe, a process governed by the whim of chemistry and practice. Great whiskies like these could be made again. It just needs someone with the will power to do it, the understanding of what made the greatest whiskies so great and the balls, madness and sheer bloody mindedness to do it.

Oh and money. Lots of money. Perhaps therein lies the problem. Perhaps someone should donate a sample of Ardbeg Kingsbury 67 to Bill Gates and see if he fancies taking a punt on funding a distillery…? Just an idea.

Bowmoreland Part 1

Posted on Monday 25th of July 2011

I have always liked Bowmore, but as vast swathes of modern Scottish distillates continue to merge in vanilla driven style these days I find myself loving its distinctive taste more and more. I think there is also something to be said for the way it has changed in recent decades, arguably those changes have been greater and more striking than at almost any other distillery. We all know what I’m on about. I’m talking about that surreal charge from the most glorious kind of tropical heaven sent whisky that it was up until around the mid 70s, through the mind boggling, perfume sodden weirdness of the 1980s until finally emerging as the super fresh, pristine, coastal beauty it has become today. Whether or not you like (probably not) that bizarre 80s style of Bowmore, I know I don’t, I think the most important thing is that it is precisely this kind of idiosyncrasy that keeps this one of the most fascinating and compelling distilleries in Scotland today. Certainly the current style of distillate it produces is, for me, one of the best in Scotland, it is clean, fresh, zingy, precise, expressive and provides a wonderful balance of coastal, peat and farmyard characteristics, at its best it can even show glimmers of its old 60s glory. I like to think of its 90s renaissance as something akin to what happened at Springbank, you might even call it the Springbank of Islay. But then again you probably shouldn’t because it’s Bowmore and Bowmore is very much its own distillery, something to be admired in these times of homogenization where distillery character seems to be a dying light in too many glasses.

I got six samples of Bowmore in the post recently that range from the late 80s to the late 90s so we’ll have a wee two parter tasting session in honor of that fact. For the sake of fun I’ve arranged them in chronological order rather than in the usual rising degrees of alcohol structure. First up is a 1987.

This is the most acceptable image you get when Googling 'French Whores'


There has been a puncheon full of ink devoted to the subject of why Bowmore from the 1980s tastes the way it does. Accusations of the whisky smelling like Nocturnal Gallic Businesswomen are not unfounded in my view, although my experience with such matters is mercifully thin. In fact if I ever met a French prostitute I’d probably nervously tell her she smelled like Bowmore. Many theories have been posited as to why this style arose, they range from dodgy yeast strains, new condensers that scolded the spirit, badly run stills, poor wood management, added soap during the distillation and any other number of tinkering changes in the production process. I’m not going to go into too much depth because Dave Broom has already written an excellent and pretty definitive report on this subject for Malt Maniacs. What I find most fascinating however is the fact that Bowmore (or rather it’s parent company Suntory) have been unable to admit that there is actually a problem or that these characteristics even existed at all. They went so far as to threaten libel action against early writers who dared to suggest such things. Well I’m not arfaid to say their 80s output was flawed and tastes like a wrestlers armpit that’s been stuffed to the gunnels with lavender and bath soaps. What are they going to do? Come and get me?

Anyway, the fact that the style began to arise around 1979 and disappears around 1989 is very telling indeed. It was clearly a problem that was hidden within the precursors in the spirit. Precursors being the various chemical compounds, congeners and reactionary elements in the new make that are initially dormant but with time in cask become more and more apparent. Precursors are the essence of distillery character, they are the wax in Clynelish, the citrus in Bladnoch and the apples in Glenfiddich. Likewise they were the perfume in Bowmore. Clearly after 10 years of maturation someone in the labs said ‘hang on a second..’ and necessary adjustments were made to alter these elements in the spirit. These changes can be clearly tasted if you try a run of Bowmores from the late 80s through to the early 90s. Interestingly these notes have been found in various examples of Glen Garioch (and Auchentoshan some have claimed) from the same era but have long since disappeared from these distillates as well. I think what we should take away from this is the fact that Bowmore changed for the better and regardless of the fact it had a dodgy decade, it is now very much ‘on form’. In fact, many of the bottlings now emerging from the early nineties with good age behind them are starting to reach the status of minor masterpieces. Lets hope there’s much much more to come…

Bowmore 1987/2010. 22yo. Douglas Laing ‘Old & Rare’. Sherry Finish. 244 Bottles. 56.1%. 70cl.

Colour: Honey

Nose: Lavender, smoke and caramel at first, it’s not too intense but it is definitely of that 80s era. Very fragrant, floral and soft with odd notes of cheese sticks and cookie dough. These profiles are so weird that they can’t seem to help but be compelling, very masochistic whisky if you ask me. Now some nice notes of juniper and some faint touches of burned acrylic. Lets add some water: with water it becomes much smokier and a little more natural, those intense notes of lavender have died down and it is actually quite pleasant, leafy and fresh. Not bad.

Palate: Neat it is hot and intense with some massive notes of lavender soap, violets and perfume with chocolate, prunes, some fairly clean and pleasant sherry and dates. The soap is not too big but when combined with those lavender, violet and perfume notes it is just too much, like when you walk into a cloud of deodorant spray at the gym or something. More slight cheesiness, chalk, some drying oakiness, beeswax and rotten orange peel. With water: soap city, not good. Actually becoming unpleasant now.

Finish: Hot, prickly, floral and perfumy. A perfume burp?

Comments: I would say this is a good example of this extremely individual and bizarre make. 1980’s Bowmore is clearly not a spirit to everyone’s taste, but I think it should be tasted by everyone, if only for the experience. The difference between this and the make from the preceding and following decades is truly remarkable.

Score: 74/100

A recent but somewhat obscure bottling of 1990 Bowmore that was done for the re-launch of the British East India Company.


Bowmore Somerled 1990-2008. 18yo. 46%. 70cl.

Colour: Straw

Nose: It’s all cream and brine in big lolloping quantities at first, delicate notes of fresh vanilla sit comfortably with drier aspects like flints, salt, cotton wool, minerals, greek yoghurt, There is something of an ‘80s’ quality in here but it is so faint and minor you could be forgiven for thinking you imagined it. The whole is just a delicious and distinctive smelling 1990s Bowmore. Super-fresh, uber-pristine, very coastal and wonderfully expressive. The nose goes on with coal, tar, hints of marmite, hessian, earthy peat, farmyard, engine oil and some tinned peaches. Some intensely fresh notes of mineral, lemon, wet pebble and seashore at the back.

Palate: Slightly stinky at first with vegetal, earthy and farmy aspects but freshens out as you go moving into more coastal and citrusy areas. Almost a glycerol peat, it’s not huge, not as big as the peat tended to get in Bowmore after 93/94 but it is distinctively velvety and oily in the way it manifests here. I think the palate is not as complex as the nose although the flavours are very distinct and well formed, not to mention well balanced. The best thing though is that there is no shortage of distillery character here and it’s a great example of the natural beauty of this great distillery.

Finish: Long, lemony, salty, briny and all kinds of coastal, with a mouthwatering dry edge to it.

Comments: Just another top notch and very classy 1990’s Bowmore. One of the most distinctive makes around these days I think.

Score: 89/100

I stole this from Dewar Rattray's website, I'm sure they won't mind. Interestingly, they are the only IB to offer a comprehensive and detailed online list of their past bottlings, why the hell can't all independents do this?! It would make life so much easier. Hats off to DR for that.

Bowmore 1990/2010 20yo. Dewar Rattray. Cask 272. 204 bottles. Fresh Bourbon. 50.2%. 70cl.

Colour: Chardonnay

Nose: Pin sharp saline coastal notes at first on top of fresh butter, cocoanut and parsley. It’s almost a bit Laphroaigesque but for a tiny hint of (surprise) lavender, but the cask does the loudest talking with notes of pine sawdust and vanilla. A very creamy, quite modern and well composed Bowmore this one, I think the work is ‘textbook’. With a little time it develops some nice notes of fresh lime juice, salt and germoline. With water: Wow, it got much much fruitier, tinned pineapple, a little passion fruit, some banana, it’s very suggestive of old style pre 1976 Bowmore. Some more drying coastal notes like wet pebbles, seashore, seaweed and fresh oysters. Now it starts to become more herbal and medicinal with notes of yellow Chartreuse, Kummel, dried herbs and brine. Wonderful, complex whisky so far.

Palate: At full strength it is very consistent with the nose but there is also a marvelous chewy aged peat character and a whole load of grass, apricots, garden fruits, floral notes, cereals, plums, green tea and preserved lemons. An absolutely fantastic and flavour filled delivery, with a hint of 80s Bowmore floral character but it appears very restrained and balanced with all those other aspects. Juniper, juicy fruits, salt, green peat oils, jasmine tea, coriander, a real Gin like botanical character to this one. I almost hesitate to add water after that but … With water it doesn’t change too much but seems to stretch all those flavours out and soften them all, it feels like a more lazy version of the same whisky.  More notes of green tea, homemade lemonade, green pepper, some gentle floral notes, orange blossom, more salt, still very good but maybe a bit better without water on the palate.

Finish: Long, saline, classy and very elegant. It seems to go full circle on itself and become a bit more ‘modern’ again with the cask giving up more notes of vanilla and cream.

Comments: This is a very entertaining and drinkable whisky, it seems to be ever changing and delivers a multifaceted showcase of all the various historical styles of Bowmore from the past forty years or so. It really is a lot of fun. It’s also one of those curious whiskies that you’ll need to pour two glasses of, one to nose and one to drink, the nose is better diluted but the palate is better neat. Anyway, it’s another great 1990 Bowmore, well done to Dewar Rattray for bottling this one.

Score: 90/100

Next time we’ll delve deeper into the latter nineties…

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