I love personality in my whisky. I’ll even forgive a wee flaw or two in a dram, so long as the whisky has enough ‘quirk’ to it to make me sit back in relection and contemplate its uniqueness. Not that I’m suggesting this Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection is a flawed malt in any way. Quite the contrary actually. It is, however, completely unrecognizable as a Bowmore. Or any Bowmore I’ve ever tried anyway.
I find that consistency of profile in Bowmore through the years is as elusive as a full set of teeth in a hillbilly hoedown. Not saying this is a bad thing; just noting that I personally would be hard-pressed to tell you what the distillery’s main profile really is. We’ve seen deep tropical notes, heavy florals, smoky bacon n’ chocolate chips, briny meaty ones and much more. All interesting in their own right, and all from different eras. Fun stuff, but what really is Bowmore then?
Well…we certainly won’t answer that question here. Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection is a humdinger and a headscratcher of a dram.
I first tried this one in late 2012 at the Bowmore distillery on Islay. I recall not being overly wowed by it. It was tasted alongside the Springtide, 25 year old and one or two others though. And, to be fair, this little tasting session followed hard on the heels of a great tour which had culminated in sipping drams pulled straight from the casks in Bowmore’s Number 1 vaults with a few mates and Heather, a wonderful lady who works at the distillery and was our guide for the Craftsman’s Tour. Perhaps I was an unfairly harsh critic that day.
Anyway…revisiting this one a few months on, and I like it just fine. It’s a little closer to the heavy industrial oils and tarry notes I’ve met in some of the monstrous output from the folks at Bruichladdich (in particular, an odd Octomore cask sample I tried), but brought down a notch or two in terms of overall might. Kinda like ‘Hulk Lite’.
The title, if you’re wondering, derives from the fact that the Bowmore maltmen did indeed select five sherry butts which were originally filled on July 13th of 1995. These butts, numbered 1551, 1552, 1553, 1559 & 1560, are what you’re drinking in this 13 year old Bowmore. This release was limited to 3000 bottles, and I believe is now, sadly, one of the dearly departed.
Nose: Rubber. Smoke and tar. New bicycle tires. Figs and mincemeat. Salty smoked meatiness. Heavy BBQ sauce (but not more on the salt…less on the sweet). Char and burning woods. Old coffee. Would not peg this as a Bowmore.
Palate: Wow. Meaty again. Cough drops. Fisherman’s Friend. Chocolate, deep and dark. Orange and grapefruit pith. Smoky and peaty, but also juicy and saucy. Greasy and oily. Sharp and biting…but in a good way. A never-ending finish. What an odd Bowmore.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt