Bowmore is back. At least that’s the word amongst enthusiasts purchasing up bottles distilled post-millennium and during the late 1990’s. Prior to this unless you’re really jumping back a few decades, Bowmore represents a real minefield of disappointment and variable distillate.
Despite this dangerous game we play with the iconic Islay distillery, we cling to the hope that its back for good. The official range still is capable of huge variances thanks to some poor distillate, cask management and overuse of artificial colouring. When Bowmore is bad it’s frankly terrible and when it hits the heights it’s unforgettable. Meanwhile we still walk that plank in the hope that at the end of it all is an enjoyable Bowmore.
I’m as guilty as anyone of purchasing Bowmore and giving it another opportunity to impress. Whenever Cadenhead’s announce a release I’m all over it like a rash. At least with their pricing strategy and constant stream of post-2000 whiskies, you’re on reasonable ground and for the most part they are enjoyable. Being sub-£80 does help matters but when you start looking elsewhere and at older expressions the prices tend to go supernova.
This particular bottling dubbed Bequest is to celebrate the retirement of Brian Morrison – the chairman of Morrison & Mackay – after 50 years working in the whisky industry. At Malt we’re fans of the Càrn Mòr expressions especially those at the cheaper end of the spectrum that flaunt their youthful ages in full visibility of everyone. The selection of Bowmore is a fitting tribute given Brian’s links with the distillery so we have high expectations for this one.
This Bowmore retails for around £299, which shows the premium attached to Islay and the distillery in particular. We’ve seen an upscaling from limited official releases in recent times from Bowmore with some ridiculous price tags attached for well-aged whiskies. Sadly some of the independent bottlers believe that they can follow suit. Problem is that the early 1990’s were still a period of recovery for Bowmore after its French perfume period of the 1980’s. A vatting of a couple of ex-bourbon barrels, this Bequest is an outturn of 565 bottles bottled at a low cask strength of 42.9%. A fitting send-off or a damp squid? I feel this one is going to be interesting…
Càrn Mòr Bowmore Bequest – review
Colour: a very light sand.
On the nose: very restrained and timid. Sea shells followed by green apples and a touch of lime zest. There’s some icing sugar followed by meringues, flint, white grapes and coconut water. This isn’t really jumping out of the glass screaming age or quality.
In the mouth: again a very leisurely pace to proceedings with a touch of smoke that dissipates and towards the finish there’s more of a salty, fishy peaty thrust. In-between all of this it’s a rather gentle parade with dried lemon, a chalky mineral aspect with a dirty vanilla and chamomile tea.
This is a really disappointing Bowmore that warrants such a low score thanks to the overall experience with the asking price tag attached. The tropical juice we associate with the great Bowmore’s is a distant memory here as its lacking body and oomph.
My own viewpoint is that there is at least one rather tired cask in the mix. I know there must be some disappointment for an independent bottler having waited patiently on their prized casks of Bowmore to deliver something only to be faced with the bitter reality. This emotion would only be matched – or surpassed arguably – if you purchased the Bowmore Bequest for £299 and then realised your mistake.