To talk about Islay, probably Bowmore is the only distillery I don't like that much. It's really by chance, over the years, I got four bottles of different vintage 1968 Bowmore in hand. Over a private tasting event, I talked about the fact to my friend Stephen, who is a real Bowmore lover. He was very surprise to know I "collect" Bowmore. It's sound a little funny to me, as I don't really want to put them into my collection list. So, without thinking, I said: let's open them all together.
Well, as usual, the result of one-bottle-one-guest soon becomes a vertical Bowmore fest. Five of us got 11 bottles, though some of them are 200ml ones. Total participates including Stephen, Bird, House, Denis, and myself. House brings his girlfriend, but didn't drink too much. We start with the youngest and going up to 1968.
Bowmore Legend NAS (43%, OB, 200ml bottle)
This is a 200ml bottles comes in an experiencing combo pack. I remember spot them in the duty-free shop. It seems not selling well in Taiwan, most of them were sent as promotion gift. It seems a good choice to have a NAS OB bottle as the start of the vertical tasting. This one shows clear Bowmore character, light yellow color, Sea, Peat, Sulfur, a little bit Iodine? Strong, young, robust, finished longer than I thought. I remember I tasted this bottle at around year 2000 but I didn't write down the note. In my memory. This one is a quite average bottle and not easy to drink that time. I wonder if I changed my taste or this one comes from an above average batch. I actually quite like it. I think the major component comes from 10yo. Score: 82 (Stephen: 80, House: 80, Denis: 78, Bird: B-~B+) Though the bottle has been opened for over 6 months, Stephen believe it performs better than just opened.)
Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB, 200ml bottle)
Color: Golden Brown. By only looked at the color, you would image this one contains lots Bowmore signature Sherry cask, however, I didn't nose or taste any sherry-like things. This is a quite fruity, soft malt. If you breath deeply, you even find something like mint feel. Quite strange. Finished bitter. Not even any Bowmore style at all. Score: 76 (S: 83, H:78, D:82, B: B-)
Bowmore Mariner 15yo (43%, OB)
Brown color, a very nice malt, attract you to experiencing single malt. You can't stop to drink one more dram. Wait a minute, what's the sneaky feeling I have. I think that's caramel. A little bit too much. It becomes obliviously when adding some drops of water. I would recommend this one to the Islay beginners, but probably not real Bowmore lovers. Score: 78 (S:84, H84, D:84, B:B) Originally I gave it a 80, like the one I taste before, but later I drop 2 point to indicate my feeling about caramel. For some reason, it reminds me Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve.
Bowmore 17yo (43%, OB, 200ml)
Color: Golden Brown. Very beautiful nose. Straight, deep. Sea, seaweed, reminds me the Bowmore harbor. Citrus fruit. Very signature Bowmore style in a light way. Finish too weak. Score: 83. (S:82, H:80, D:82, B:B) Stephen thinks it performs better when it was just opened. It’s gone now.
Bowmore 21yo (43%, OB)
As I have tasted this bottle before, I didn’t pay too much attention to this one. A little bit lack of complex than I remember. Score: 83. (S:86, H:85, D:83, B:B+)
Bowmore 25yo (43%, OB)
Color: Amber. Clear sherry nose at first. Balanced with seaweed and peat. Silky like feeling. Finished nice but dry. A good example of Bowmore Sherry cask. Score: 84. (S:83, H:85, D:83, B:B-~B)
Bowmore 30yo Sea Dragon Black Ceramic (43%, OB)
Golden color. An attracting beautiful nose. By no doubt an standard old malt. Very complex layers. However, the palate is too soft and weak. I wonder if the ceramic let go too much alc. A little bit disappointing. Score: 87. (S:86, H:87, D:86, B:B)
Bowmore 32yo 1968 S.P.Morrison 50yr Anniv. (45.5%, OB, 1860b.)
Golden color. It must be bourbon casks. Citrus fruit, heather, peat, mint again! Very touching, no talk for quite a long time. It can be observed that every body like this malt. Denis is good at wine but quite a beginner at Single Malt. He adds a very good comment: How can it be so old but still give you the feeling it’s so refreshing? I think that’s also what I found in this malt. You feel it seems so powerful and charming. You feel the malt want to demonstrate it’s unique personality. You know immediately this is the winner by no doubt. I love it. Score: 93. (S:94, H:92, D:90, B:A~A+)
Bowmore 35yo 1968 Celtic Heartland (40.6%, Murray McDavid, 722b.)
A kind of simple heather nose after the wining OB 1968. Yellow color. Light in style. Simple but charming. I think Jim McEwan still doing quite a good job because he don’t have too many casks to choose from. Score: 90. (S:90, H:90, D:89, B:B+~A-)
Bowmore 33yo 1968/2001 (46.2%, Signatory vintage, cask#1431, 218b.)
Color: yellow golden. I think this one should be a refill sherry hogshead. Some clear seaweed with peat and sherry. A little bit too heavy after the previous two bottle. Not quite match my memory. Stephen and Bird also taste this bottle at the shop before, we all agreed this one needs some time to open up. Score: 86: (S:85, H:88, D:87, B:A-)
Bowmore 35yo 1968/2003 (42.05%, Peerless, Cask#124, 201b.)
Yellow color. Originally I heard this one comes from the same batch as Celtic Heartland. However, after the tasting, I can clear declare it’s not. This one has more mellow feeling. Quite thick body. Quite sweet but not coming from sherry cask for sure. Finish long and firm. Score: 90. (S:88, H:88, D:87, B:B+)
It is not common that we can have a clear champion in a tasting. The 1968 S.P Morrison 50 yrs anniv. Bottle is truly a exceptional bottle. Especially considering it’s price. I bought it in an auction for around 200 euro. The currently price is around 350 euro, still a very value choice compared with other vintage ob Bowmore. Bowmore lovers can really consider to buy one.