Bowmore Darkest Review

“The Dark Side of the Malt”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bowmore Darkest (Bottled Around 2014)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 15 Years
ABV: 43% 
Chill-Filtration: Yes
Whisky Review # 607
Buying Advice: 😐  Neutral. P/Q Ratio is okay. Too Much Sherry IMHO.

Colour: Very Dark Amber/Mahogany with a hint of Orange. This is indeed one of the darkest coloured whiskies I've ever seen or tasted. There was really no need to add Caramel in my opinion.  

Nose: The Sherry cask influence is obvious and I detect a little Sulphur. Nothing alarming though. Typical Bowmore Aromas like Smoke, Peat, Tar, Perfume, Wet Stone, Brine, Rubber and Iodine are noticeable but in a very subdued manner. They are being pushed back by Dried Fruit (Raisins, Sultanas, Plums and Dates), Berries, Caramel, Treacle, Vanilla, Toffee, Rum Soaked Fruitcake, Bourbon, Malt, Baked Apples, Light Citrus, Leather, Menthol and hints of Pepper, Cinnamon, Espresso and Bitter Chocolate. After a while I find a very faint BBQ Aroma. On the Nose, the Bowmore Darkest is a combination of a Sherried Speysider and a lightly peated Islay Malt. I'm sure this might confuse a few people. Personally I think that a slightly shorter Oloroso Finish (1,5 - 2 Years) and an ABV of 46% would have made this a better proposition. As it stands, it's okay on the Nose but rather unbalanced. 

Palate: The delivery is a bit on the Thin side. On the Palate as well, the typical Bowmore Aromas only play second fiddle. Light Smoke, light Wet Peat, Tar and Iodine are there but in the background. The main drivers are Barley, Caramel, Toffee, Treacle, Butterscotch, Dried Fruit like Plums, Sultanas and Apples, Nuts Berries, Leather, Grapefruit Juice and a few Herbs and Spices like Mint, Pepper, Clove and Cinnamon. Hints of Dark Chocolate and Tobacco.   

Finish: Middle-Long, quite Dry and basically Sweet. A light Bitterness pops up towards the end. Some Citric, Sour and Salty notes as well. Without a doubt it's my favourite part of this Single Malt. I find Sweet Barley, light Peat, Smoke, Iodine and Tar, Sulphur, Caramel, Toffee, Espresso, Blackberries (the Fruit), Oak, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, Licorice, Mint, Lemon, Grapefruit, Mixed Nuts and Dried Fruit, Dark Chocolate, slightly Sour Apples and this distant hint of raw Meat just placed on the BBQ.     

The Bowmore Darkest does not improve with added Water. Better sip it neat. 

Rating: 84.5    

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 21.5  - Overall: 21.5

General Remarks:

The Bowmore Distillery was founded in 1779 by John Simpson. It's the oldest Islay distillery, located in Bowmore. Since 1994 it is completely owned by Morrison Bowmore Distilleries, part of the Japanese Suntory Group. It's one of the very few Scottish Distilleries with an active Malting Floor that provides around 30% of the Malt used by Bowmore. The 15 Years Darkest is part of Bowmore's core range for the domestic markets alongside the 12 Years, the 18 Years, the 25 Years and the NAS Small Batch Reserve. 

The Bowmore Darkest was launched in 1999, at first as a NAS expression. Later it was upgraded to a 15 Years Single Malt and this change significantly increased its popularity. It matures for 12 years in Ex-Bourbon casks before being finished for 3 years in Ex-Oloroso casks. The average price is around 65 US Dollars (April 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Bowmore Darkest is a tough one to call. It's certainly not a bad Single Malt and the Price Quality ratio is good. But, and I've said it before, I believe that a Wine Finish of any kind should enhance the original qualities of the Spirit and not overwhelm them. And the latter unfortunately is the case here. It's coming across as a Sherried Speysider with an Islay Finish. A bit weird if you ask me. Therefore, my humble suggestion to Bowmore would be to cut the Ex-Oloroso Finish to something between 1,5 and 2 years, increase the ABV to 46% and get rid of the Caramel colouring. In this way you might probably create an interesting alternative for people that love Lagavulin 16 or peated BenRiach. At times like these I would have loved to have a career in the Whisky world. Back to reality and the Bowmore Darkest. As it stands it's a somewhat underwhelming hybrid between Speyside and Islay with a good Price/Quality ratio. So by all means give it a try when you have the chance!   

Jan van den Ende                                                                        April 3, 2017

No comments: