A journey Into Joy is the imaginary name that adorns this release. An apt name from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, seeing how this particular whisky has indeed been on a voyage that has taken it across the world and back again to Scotland.
Starting life on Islay at the Bowmore distillery, the cask would have been shipped to the SMWS warehousing facility on the Scottish mainland just outside of Glasgow. Here it would have resided until the tasting panel decided the time was right to unleash the whisky from the cask and into the wider world.
There are themes that run throughout the SMWS monthly outturns and this bottler can call upon resources from its growing inventory of casks. Numbers will become very familiar and regular; almost like clockwork. An outturn wouldn’t be that without the presence of a Caol Ila, a Mannochmore or something from that Orkney distillery with a taste for Vikings. If you’re a fan of a particular distillery then you can – depending on your preference – stock up on your favourite for future delight and comparison. Bowmore is another semi-regular and extremely popular given all things peat and Islay. The Malt Society has delivered a solid selection of sherry matured Bowmore’s in recent times and arguably lead the field, with Cadenhead’s delighting with ex-bourbon cask releases.
Now for an admission dear reader, despite my diatribe and revulsion at the constant disappointment associated with the official Bowmore range. I do have an unhealthy addiction for Bowmore. There I’ve finally come out from the whisky closet. Without knowing it, in recent years the tasty post-2000 distillate is in my humble opinion a future classic. So much so I’ve unknowingly stockpiled a couple of cases of ex-bourbon matured varieties all from Cadenhead’s. Oops!
Bowmore is back. Sadly, this makes it even more annoying that the official range is layered in artificial colouring, plummeted to a low strength and offers a substandard nosing and tasting experience. A real headscratcher how Morrison Bowmore (Suntory) can take something so fine and turn it into an abomination on a regular basis. Mind you, they’ve also managed it with Laphroaig and Auchentoshan, so kudos to them and their pursuit of whatever it is. On my shopping list is a bit more Bowmore variety and hopefully, the SMWS will be able to provide in the coming months.
This particular bottle is release number 3.307 and was distilled on 25th September 1997 before being bottled at 55.9% strength. An outturn of 564 bottles was extracted from the refill Oloroso sherry butt for the Feis Ile 2018 edition. Needless to say, it promptly sold out amongst the usual bottle stampedes. The advantage of the SMWS is that it can ship bottles to its foreign divisions and give whisky enthusiasts a taste of Scotland and its natural beauty. This specific bottle reached SMWS America and was snapped up by peat heads and Bowmore fans alike.
That should be the end of the story right there. However, genuine enthusiasts love to share a whisky and see the delight that the new experience brings to friends or complete strangers. Rose was one of the fortunate few Stateside to grab a bottle of this Bowmore and being a big fan of all things Islay why not? I suspect there’s a great experience to be had with an Islay whisky, standing on the shoreline in California. Gazing out across the rocky environment, taking in the sea breeze and coastal aroma and sipping on a dram. California dreaming of Islay or Scotland and the special moments that a bottle of whisky can unleash…
After shipping the bottle to California you’d have thought whisky mileage would have come to an end. That sharing factor then kicks in and a sample of this release is shipped my way via Chicago and a detour around Scotland. Thanks to the mutual friend for returning some of Scotland’s liquid produce to its rightful destination i.e. me. Here we are with a whisky that has clocked up some mileage in its own right. Now is the moment to see if Joy is indeed the final destination.
SMWS 3.307 A Journey Into Joy – Jason’s review
On the nose: a cold chocolate brownie with some beetroot to inject an element of earthiness and a spent candle wick. There’s a gentle barbecue aspect, cracked black pepper and liquorice. A closed Bowmore is my initial impression; I’ve let it sit for a while but it still seems reserved. Escargot pastry, cinnamon leading into mulled wine and Scotch beef jerky. Very cask dominant – perhaps some jet lag? Time to board for Scotland… Longer brings out a stewed black tea and the Spice Girls of cardamon, star anise and a touch of fenugreek seeds. Adding water brings out a nuttiness and smoked quality and a bone marrow gravy.
In the mouth: much sweeter than I was expecting as it overpowers the peat, slightly unbalanced but nevertheless pleasing. Resinous, dark chocolate and more sweet cinnamon and fruit loaf. More beefy character with Yorkshire pudding or singed pastry if you’re not familiar with that. Water oddly reveals more alcohol as we drive a wedge between the cask and the spirit, or at least that’s what I felt. Coffee beans follow and a sense of soot but little else.
SMWS 3.307 A Journey Into Joy – Rose’s review
Color: old copper pennies
On the nose: toasted and buttered cinnamon raisin bread heralds an arrival. Then smoked sea salt and damp charred oak take over. Memories of a barbecue pit, cherry lozenges and a milky hot cocoa linger.
In the mouth: zesty, smoky and sweet barbecue sauce mopped over pork ribs. Hot car tire rubber, rosemary and black licorice step in before fading into Chai tea, being sipped in your great Uncles old leather armchair.
A good sherry cask here yet I’m torn. The Bowmore that I loved today (post-2000 distillate) is sadly missing. Perhaps this is why a robust cask influence was required. What you’re left with is an enjoyable dram but not one that screams Bowmore to me. This could easily be from a handful of Islay distilleries. Arguably a couple of years less might have given us a more interesting whisky; more a case of a joy that’s slipped through our fingers.
Jason’s Score: 6/10
Rose’s Score: 6/10
Video, sample, photograph and inspiration kindly provided by Rose who posts as From Where I Dram on Instagram.