A glorious day had arrived in Campbeltown of all places. An almost tropical intensity set about baking the coastline that is home to some of Scotland’s most essential distilleries. Our group couldn’t believe their fortune. A perfect marriage of sunshine, whisky and company had united for a memorable series of events.
The Campbeltown Malts festival was in full swing and we had just reached the Cadenhead’s climax with a dram faceoff between Cameron and Jenna. Both Cadenhead representatives had taken us through a tasting of fierce banter and whisky frontiers including that delicious 29 year old MacDuff. A dramatic climax ensued where their final selections which would literally be taken from the cask after the event and made available to the fortunate attendees.
First, however, there needed to be an overall winner. To the victor the bragging rights and spoils. Vindication of their talent and sheer skill in playing to an audience.
Going into the last round it was a close run thing. I actually had Jenna ahead with some verbal assaults of sheer class and solid whisky selections. However, Cameron was far from down and out. He still had the ace up his sleeve that we’re reviewing today.
Knowing your audience is a key ingredient in any tactical planning. Jenna may have followed her heart and taste buds to Aberfeldy of all places. Giving us a 22 year old Aberfeldy from a hogshead, distilled in 1996 and a cask strength of 52.2%. It received a muted response from onlookers who were perhaps expecting a whisky with a little more punch and bling factor.
Although I don’t have that whisky here today to review – maybe I’ll put that right soon – I felt towards the end of the face-off wasn’t it’s best placing. There were plenty of liquid summer delights to enjoy within the dram and a luxurious honeycomb aspect, but the punters baying for blood wanted more. They wanted power and looking around during the final minutes, a degree of blood.
Many of the attendees were already feeling the effects of the sunshine and whisky. Only a couple of days into their epic voyages that would lead them onto the Kilkerran events and then onto Islay. More than many can stomach, it was clearly visible during a warehouse tasting later that day.
Jenna tried to talk up the Aberfeldy selection like any good captain would. The looming presence of Mark Watt in his role as the referee did congratulate her on picking a relatively unloved distillery. There were many positives to the choice itself, and more than most I can appreciate taking that chance and going with your own gut instinct. Taking a step away from the well-travelled pathway. A huge gamble with such an audience and one Cameron did not follow.
He unleashed the Kraken of the seas. The monster from the deep and a legend from a bygone era. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. The Bowmore was amongst us.
We’ve already talked about how frustrating this distillery is in recent decades. How lacklustre the official core range is and the enduring myth of great whiskies. Cadenhead’s have bottled some extremely impressive Bowmore’s of late along with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. All it takes is the right cask and independent bottler.
In reality, it was a devastating choice and an entirely safe one. A Bowmore on form will go down well with the assembled attendees many of whom remember the good old days. Needless to say, it was a crushing blow.
This 2001 Bowmore was bottled on 25th May 2018, literally straight after the tasting itself. Right in front of us if we wished to stand around and watch the bottling team go to work. I don’t know the final tally struck from the cask, given the age and ex-bourbon barrel, you’d expect approximately 200-250 bottles. The final strength was 54.2%. The price back then to attendees was £75 and an orderly queue formed to purchase the bottles. For the record, I bought 2 and passed a bottle onto Andy to enjoy at cost price.
Cadenhead’s Bowmore 2001 Cameron’s Choice – review
Colour: A very light straw.
On the nose: Islay dreamy. Pear drops, a lovely coastal peat with a salty vibe. A slight TCP note and incredibly fruity it must be said. Bursting with classic Bowmore fruits. A touch of rotting root vegetables and mace with kindling. Pine cones and a floral note verging almost on perfume, but not quite. A great nose it must be said.
In the mouth: Just more fruits keep on coming with the peat taking a backwards step. It’s still in the mix but the interplay between the apples, pears and tropical fruits is magical. Cask char, a sweet vanilla with lemon gives a real freshness and vibrancy. Sherbet dip, mint leaf and a seasoned finish with sea salt and black pepper.
This is the type of Bowmore I love and fear in equal measure. The startling realisation that the distillery is still alive and kicking. A size 9 boot to the baws of the official range and the other Islay distilleries.
When Bowmore is on form it’s virtually impossible not to fall under its charms. A frankly gorgeous, complex nose, that drags you from the shoreline into a meadow realm before sending you on your merry way. An inspired choice from Cameron, but for Cadenhead regulars, we know they’ve been bottling some cracking casks around this vintage. Possible future classics?
Sample purchased at the Maltstock stand at the Whiskybase Gathering.