'Small Batch' is quite a hot topic at the moment. Numerous bourbon producers retail a small batch whiskey, each one purportedly demonstrating a differing characteristic to the company's regular releases- Four Roses, being a noted - and highly enjoyable example.
But what does 'small batch' mean exactly? The problem I have with this phrase is that it is relatively meaningless, given that there are no actual parameters surrounding what size a small batch could be. If you're the Balcones distillery in the USA, held together with tin foil, passion and ingenuity, a small batch is likely to be pretty much what it says on the bottle - very small - and limited to boot. But if you're Beam Global, a small batch could be 20,000 cases- so long as it isn't getting into the realms of what a regular release amounts to.
The same thing applies to single malts with small batch written on the label. Take Kilchoman for instance. Should this tiny distillery release a small batch of something, one would expect it to be only a few hundred bottles, given the size of the operation. But where does that leave Morrison Bowmore?
This month, Bowmore release a small batch single malt of their own. Matured in first & second fill bourbon casks, the whisky purports to be the distillery's lightest and delicate expression to date, bottled with no age statement and at 40%. But the question still remains about what exactly a small batch of Bowmore is?? According to the press release this whisky is 'launched in response to consumer demand for special and small batch whiskies...a genuine release of limited volume, vatted in restricted quantities...'
Ok. But that still doesn't tell me a great deal.
Does any of this really matter? Does anyone actually care?? Shall we just have a dram and stop wondering???
Bowmore - Small Batch Reserve - 40%
Nose: Perfumed fruit gums, liquorice, lemon zest and a faint waft of smoke jump straight our of the glass- no hanging around here. Given a bit of a nose around, some red berry fruits, strawberry sherbet, black pepper and Swarfega (that terrifyingly 'green' hand cleanser) start to emerge. It's intriguingly light, yet very pleasant indeed. Outdoors with a summer BBQ would be an ideal location for this dram.
Palate: Wow, the palate is super light on the first sip, then comes the smoke (sweet, creamy woodsmoke) followed by more of the red berry fruits, some perfumed pomander/make up notes and sweet vanilla. It's like kissing someone who's wearing bright red lipstick, after they've finished a menthol cigarette - and I don't mean that to sound derogatory.
Finish: Lingering notes of the fruit and vanilla with the last gentle notes of the smoke.
Overall: Light, summery and with all the hallmarks of Bowmore, just paired back. It will make a subtle introduction to the distillery for a newcomer, or those fans of Bowmore who prefer a more gentle touch. However, one question I have is where this leaves the regular 12 year old? There are several similarities between this small batch release and the 12yo (both bottled at 40% and both lighter expressions of Bowmore) but this expression retails at around £10 more, despite not having an age statement on it.
Batch size eh... Just how long is this particular whisky-flavoured piece of string?