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Friday, 9 August 2013

Port Of Call - Bowmore Limited Edition 23 Year Old Port Matured Release

From the far-flung climes of Tasmania, to the equally far-flung Islay (well, to some, anyway) and this week's major new release from one of the more refined smoky beasts on the Island - Bowmore.  To some, Bowmore lacks the sheer visceral, filthy bite of some of the other Islay distilleries, but to us, the recent new expressions, such as Tempest, have harnessed the ability to stay perfectly balanced on the tightrope which swings precariously above the peaty inferno below, that so many whiskies seem to succumb to.  Nothing wrong with falling off -  but to some palates, peated whisky is simply an unapproachable flavour. 

Bowmore's lighter, more floral style is slowly but surely capturing the attention of many (nearly) peat ready palates, as well as slaking the thirst of those who are suffering from P.F.S -  or Peat Fatigue Syndrome -  believe me -  it will hit all whisky drinkers (no matter how much they claim to love the smoky stuff) at some point in their drinking career.  

 Bowmore's latest release adds to the already heady mix of floral peat, characteristic Parma Violet tones and sweetness with the proposition of fortified wine.  This 23 year old from 1989 has been exclusively matured in port casks, which, if used to their fullest effect, can impart more than just a sweetness to the proceedings, pulling in richer, spicier and drier woody notes.  Get it wrong and the dominance of these crimson devils can easily overpower the spirit, rendering it a lost cause.  So will the Douro Valley's finest give this latest Bowmore an additional string to its bow, or fall into the camp of 'unsuccessful, but fun experiment'?  

Bowmore -23 year old Port Matured - 1989 - 12,000 bottles - 50.8% - RRP £380

Nose: Classic Bowmore notes off the bat: sea spray, a touch of iodine and a little Parma Violet, but with a surprisingly lively kick.  Next comes some richer notes of barbecue smoked meat, black pepper and ruby port, like a good marinade, not that you would consider ever using this to marinade anything... Water brings out a fruit gum note: fragrant, citrus and soft orchard fruits (plums and possibly a hint of nectarine) are also present. 

Palate: Sweet into savoury, into drying barbecue charcoal, then blasting off into Parma Violet world. It is distinctly Bowmore and has the elements of what Bowmore does best- surprise, yet comfort at the same time.  The influence of the port is there, giving a sweetness, but the character of the spirit comes from the fragrant top notes and the delicate smokiness, which intermingle with a woody dryness.  It's feisty too and with water, the subtleties start to come thru, with a little menthol developing, some citrus orange zest notes and a more refined smokiness.  

Finish: The smoke takes the driving seat again (a dry charcoal smoke), alongside a tanginess and a gentle return of the Parmas.  

Overall: Unmistakably Bowmore, the lineage is clear here between expressions like Tempest and, to a lesser extent, the heavier Maltman's Selection. This is full of character and a whisky of remarkable presence but the only quibble we have about it is the price. When you consider the Bowmore 25 year old is a good £120 cheaper (available for as little as £220 here) you'd have to be a serial Bowmore'ophile to hunt this one down.