Bowmore 25 y.o. Small Batch Release
It’s disheartening to find a 25 year old with so little character and soul. A quarter century malt from an iconic distillery should be teeming with personality and have a niche all its own. Sadly that’s not really the case here. This is Bowmore without really being Bowmore. Hard to believe an Islay distillery can be so utterly tame (without being named Bunnahabhain, that is).
Let’s pause a sec, though, and talk about expectations. While I try to score a whisky based solely on an ‘as objective as possible’ basis, I can’t help but assess a whisky by holding it up against other expressions produced by the distillery. This is where experience comes into play. At the time of writing I have tried just shy of 50 different Bowmores that I know of (probably even more that I haven’t kept track of). These run the gambit from new make spirit through the stunning old ’60s releases. I’ve tried it straight from the cask and drunk it right at the source. I like to think I know Bowmore from the earlier fruit bombs to the later perfumes. Interesting enough…this whisky is not only neither of those; it’s almost unrecognizable as Bowmore.
Ok…so long as the whisky is good. And good enough to justify that multi-hundred dollar price tag. But here’s the rub; it’s not, really. This is merely an ok outing for Bowmore. Seems like it was matured in maybe third fill barrels (though I’m sure that wouldn’t really be the case). Very little real distillery character. And as for living up to the cost? No way.
Hit up the 18. I think at this point it’s a bit more of a safe bet. Or better yet…the 15 year old Laimrig. Now there’s a stunner.
Nose: Flinty nip of wet rock. Wine gums. Smoke and peat. Seawater. Grape and a touch of grapefruit. A tangy green note. Some caramel. Grains are still pretty prevalent. A faint whiff of that lavendar aroma we’ve sorta come to (unfortunately) expect. Slightly disappointing, to be honest.
Palate: Dry smoke. Wine-y. Citrus pith. Grains. Wow…where is all of the fruitiness that should be bursting out of a 25 year old peat-er? Dry. Almost industrial. A faint seafood note too.
Thoughts: No bad whisky. No FWP. No overwhelming lavendar. But also none of what made older Bowmore so special. Just a so-so malt.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
Seems like a classic example of a company using an age statement to charge an outrageous amount for a meager product, knowing it will sell based solely on the number on the bottle. It’s a shoddy, exploitative practice, playing off of people’s assumption that the bigger the number, the better the bottle; an assumption that was forced on them by the whisky industry for decades, the last five or so not withstanding. Ultimately, it’s a case for greater consumer education and awareness, otherwise companies like Suntory are going to continue selling mediocre whisky at high prices, because they know people will buy it. Not to drink a 25 year old whisky, but to own a 25 year old whisky.
I may disagree with them over NAS marketing, but at least Bruichladdich had the good sense to blend together old, tired whisky with some newer distillate to perk it up, and sell it at much fairer price.
To clarify, I believe all NAS “cuvees” should be labelled with at least the vintages of the casks that were blended together, a la Balvenie Tun 1401, or Arran’s Devil’s Casks. Beyond that, Ardbeg Rolllercoaster set the gold standard, with the percentages of every vintage being displayed in a bar graph. I wish Bruichladdich and other “modern” distilleries would catch on to this.
I agree a detailed table of contents would be nice, but I believe that currently the SWA (or the regulations) only allow the listing of the youngest whisky’s age.
If they would give us that breakdown on their labels I think most of us NAS naysayers would be happy and it would get us off their case.
The SWA needs to get its head out of its ass and acknowledge that there is a new whisky reality.
I don’t believe the SWA prevents anyone from listing other vintages aside from the youngest, as long as only the youngest vintage is used as the official statement of age. If the whisky doesn’t carry an age statement, but every vintage is listed, determining the age would be fairly easy for the consumer.
And anyways, at this point, it’s hard to say that a whisky that lists every vintage of cask blended into it is “No Age Stated”.
I think the SWA successfully prevented a bottler from listing each vintage with the justification that even with an age statement it could “confuse” the consumer. Quite right. I appreciate their efforts.
Yes, as an adult consumer, I can’t tell the difference between a singe number that says “X years old” and a list on the back in smaller font.
I need the SWA to protect me from too many numbers the way they protect me from those dreaded inner staves.
Point taken, Andrew, it would no longer be NAS if we were given the component age breakdown, and I agree with David that most of us are not as easily confused as the SWA thinks. And, yes, give John Glaser and others the freedom to be creative and they will no doubt present us with some very drinkable whisky and not be shy (embarrassed) about telling us exactly what went into it.
All great points and, yes, if consumers had anything approaching full product disclosure that would blow the doors off of age statements and make the entire point moot. And David’s hit the nail on the head by pointing out that the SWA’s attitude on informative labeling is the same as most of the industry’s (no surprise there) on providing low age statements: even though both claim that an “educated” consumer is their goal, they both adopt policies to “save” us from our ignorance, particularly when such education would serve to show that all whiskies aren’t created equal by virtue of providing a label which is equally uninformative.
To those who would like more information, but aren’t yet on board with the boycott of NAS (present company excepted, of course), however, the question is, how do you get to full product disclosure – and get producers competing against each other to provide more info as a competitive selling point – when you accept less product information instead of demanding more with/for your whisky cash?
P.S.: I think Glaser had a very strong case with the issue of the use of staves with Spice Tree: as they were added to the cask but in no way “additives” that were going to be bottled with the whisky in any sense beyond what the surrounding cask oak was, there really wasn’t an issue. Threatened with legal action from the SWA, Compass Box backed off, but it was an idea that should have had its day in court.
What should they have done—priced it at a below-market price and explained on the label, “Well, it’s just not that good”?
Hilarious, I love it!
I agree. Mix this with some good younger whisky and have a whisky worth buying and drinking. An NAS, but probably a better value than this. My problem is not with NAS, just poor value whisky, AS, NAS or vintage.
I don’t have any love of poor value whisky either, but value’s no excuse for hiding age information – unless you’re somehow dealing with whisky which was casked with no expectation of it being matured BY being casked in the first place. Show me whisky that’s not time sensitive and you’ve got a justification for NAS. Short of that, you don’t.