Thursday, May 06, 2010

go home or know more about bowmore

My ongoing whisky odyssey takes me to Islay, or in a more literal sense Waitrose, where I popped in on the way back from my Black Mountains walk the other week to discover that they were knocking out 12-year-old Bowmore for £21.99 - about 8-10 quid off the standard price, and I'd just walked 19 miles so I reckoned I'd earned a bit of a reward.

Bowmore is the oldest of the still-functioning Islay distilleries, established in 1779. It's perhaps not quite as fashionable these days as the fanatically culty Ardbeg and Laphroaig, but they still knock out a lot of whisky. As I've said before I'm not the biggest fan of the really TCP-and-charcoal-briquettes style of whisky, but I was quite impressed with the few slugs of Bowmore Legend I had out of Andy's hip-flask on the golf course a few weeks back, so I thought I'd give it a go.

This is actually a bit more civilised than the Legend (which doesn't carry an age statement), less antiseptic and more rich and mellow and woody (it's a very satisfying dark brown colour as well). There's still a big whack of peat smoke, though, but not the eye-watering throat-constricting Ardbeg variety. It's more like a nice mellow wood bonfire on a beach, a bit of sea air, maybe a bit of tar and seaweed in the background, and something slightly salty and meaty as well, as if someone was char-grilling corned beef over the wood and seaweed combo.

Now I'll grant you seaweed and char-grilled corned beef doesn't sound great, but actually this is pretty good. The expectation that it would slot in somewhere near the Talisker and the Highland Park turns out to be broadly correct; it's slightly more peaty (though not necessarily more smoky) than the Highland Park, and slightly sweeter than the Talisker, but otherwise very much in the same ballpark. Good stuff.

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