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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Advance To Bowmore

After the recent announcement of the sale of Bruichladdich distillery by the independent owners to French company Remi for somewhere in the region of £58 million, it seemed only apt that this was the same week in which my edition of the newly launched board game Monopoly: The Islay Edition arrived in the post. 

Someone call Remy Cointreau chief executive Jean-Marie Labord, as he could have saved a few quid and bought the site for M220 ('M' being the unit of currency used in this game, which is sure to outlast the Euro...) had he rolled the required number on the enclosed dice.

Monopoly is a difficult and challenging game; the temptation is to buy everything you land on, but they real key is to build up your portfolio, expand your property empire and bankrupt the other players: true capitalism played out in the comfort of your own home.

Along the way, you must avoid pitfalls such as the 'Chance' cards, which can be rewarding or damaging. Such realistic aspects as 'Your Whisky Cask Matures. Collect M150.' and 'Caught Speeding On The Low Road. Fined M15' feature in this edition. Sadly, there is no card which reads 'Sold Distillery To The French: Collect M58m'...

If you were to look at the prime property portfolios on this board, you'd be quickly drawn towards the top end of the square, for this is where you will find the three 'Kildalton Distilleries' of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig as well as Bowmore town and Bridgend, occupying the spaces more commonly know to me as Mayfair and Park Lane.

However, getting there with money in the bank will be difficult; try not buying Bruichladdich, Caol Ila or Kilchoman if you land on them, or even hovering up the four lighthouses which adorn each side of the board... but if you do make it there with cash to spare, you'll be rewarded with a property of your very own. But not just any property: a distillery. On Islay. And at current market prices, I'd get ready to retire. Especially if you can build a hotel there as well... just think of the rent. This calls for a special bottling. Someone get Bruichladdich on the 'phone...

But it seems that this last week has been all about Islay. Not only the news of the sale of 'laddie and the arrival of my Islay Monopoly set, but Bowmore have added another vintage release to their current crop.

Last month we reviewed their newly released 1964 Fino Cask, of which just 72 bottles have been produced, which really was (and bloody well should be at the price) an utterly fantastic whisky. However, if £8,000 is a little bit out of your price range, then the new 1985 offering may tickle your fancy at £300. Only 747 bottles have been produced, being drawn from both sherry and bourbon casks, and it has been bottled at the natural strength of 52.3% abv

Bowmore - 1985 Vintage - 747 bottles only - 52.3% abv

Nose: Quite a lot of sea-salt and smoke, this reminds me more of a Talisker than a Bowmore. But as it beings to settle in the glass, the smoke and salt dissipate to give way to freshly cut pine, orange peel and some hints of mango. This is more robust than other Bowmore's I've had of this age.

Palate: Delicious and oily, the smoke, spices and mango hit the palate hard, exploding with flavour. Backed up with some great rich tea biscuit and big elements of malt. Some brandy butter tones too. With water, minty elements come more into the mix with the pine flavours being pushed into the finish.

Finish: Without water, this Bowmore has a long and slightly 'sandy' finish to it.  With water, the mint and pine linger on the palate.

Overall: A really sold release from Bowmore which does a good job showcasing the peaty, salty elements but doesn't give enough room for the classic tropical fruits to come to life. Recent releases such as the Fino (obvs, for £8k) and the Tempest (yes, please for £40) showcase this unique side of Bowmore very well indeed. Save up for the fino (!), or buy a case of Tempest, would be my advice.

Playing monopoly as a child gave me a very basic understanding of London as a City, but having now lived here, in a central location, for more than 12 years, it feels like home, even if we are 'renting it out' to Coca Cola and Co at the moment to stage the Greatest Advert In The World.
Yesterday saw a low-key celebration of a very small area of this great city: Leather Lane, a road which runs through Hatton Gardens, the 'jewellery district' of London and is home to some fantastic producers of artisanal food and drink who put on an event for the public to experience their wares.

Taking part were top coffee experts Coffee Smiths Collective who run the excellent Department Of Coffee And Social Affairs, doing coffee tastings and the chaps from the Craft Beer Company hosting a small beer tasting. Food was provided by Pieminister, the masters of pies and a whisky element by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, who themselves were showcasing a newly released Bowmore:

SMWS - 3.187 'Camphor Muscle Oil and Russian Caramel' - 14 Years Old - Ex-Sherry Butt refill - Distilled 25th Sept 1997 - 608 bottles only - 57.2% abv

Nose: Well, the name gives away the nose on this! Rich caramel and salt fly from the glass with over-ripe red fruits and some mango, but mango chutney this time. A hint of apple juice at the death.

Palate: Without water this gives of a big rich tone of lapsang souchong tea, salt and dark cocoa. With water, the whole thing settles right down to reveal the syrup notes from tinned pineapple, as well as some oak spice and black tea. It can take quite a lot of water and still give excellent flavours.

Finish: Long and warming, this is packed with flavour; exactly how I like my whisky. Complex but balanced.

Overall: I liked it so much, I bought a bottle. Winner.

As the evenings begin to draw in, it seem only right to be re-stocking the cabinet with some  excellent, warming Islay whiskies. Last week I added both a Laphroaig 18 and Caol Ila 18 to my stash and this week, the SMWS Bowmore above.

There now must be only one thing for it: order in some more Witney blankets, nip down JJ Fox to rejuvenate the humidor and then invite a load of people over for a game of Islay monopoly.

Everyone needs to bring a bottle from Islay so we can charge rents as drams... there might even be a sneaky adjustment to the Chance Cards  ('You Have One Won First Place In The Feis Ile Nosing Competition. Reward: A Dram Of Your Choice From Around The Table') to keep everyone busy...