Nostalgia in a Glass

I've tasted old Bowmore whiskies with heavy peat, heavy sherry, heavy smoke, and heavy funk, but I've never tasted one with this much sweet malt and vanilla. That's not to say this edition goes easy on the smoke, however, because there's definitely plenty of phenolic goodness to light the way home on the finish. This 20 year cask is maritime whisky at its finest. It reminds me of walking the streets in Bowmore near the distillery for the first time years ago, grabbing a plate of fresh oysters at the Harbour Inn across the street, then ducking into Duffie's for a quick dram. In a sense, it's a nostalgic whisky. It reminds me of what got me into whisky in the first place, a sense of wonder and complexity at how a golden liquid like this could taste so damn good. If you're in search of that feeling, that sense of excitement that may have been lacking from your single malt consumption as of late, I invite you to find that feeling again in this bottle.

1997 Bowmore 20 Year Old "Old Particular" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $149.99 - There are two things that are consistent about Bowmore: the whisky is almost always awe-inspiring and rare editions will most often cost you a pretty penny. The stalwart of Islay is the spiritual home of smoky whisky, known equally for its grace under a peat fire. The Bowmore 25, one of the distillery's most magical expressions, routinely hovers between the $400 -$500 price point on the open market, but for this holiday season we set out to find a more affordable version for our customers who want something special, but not quite that expensive. This cask strength 55.7% 20 year old single barrel edition, while lacking any sherry influence, still manages to offer an incredible amount of sweetness from the refill oak hogshead, coupling with the clean flavors of malted barley and vanilla. The richness overtakes the palate initially, which is rare in an Islay whisky with this much smoke, dominating the flavor profile right off the bat. The peat and campfire notes don't begin until almost halfway through the process, combining sea salt and maritime elements with caramel and ash on the finish. There's plenty of Islay influence here, but it's beautifully balanced by the whisky's inherent maltiness. In a nutshell, it's textbook Bowmore with maturity and power for a fantastic price. It tastes exactly the way the distillery itself smells when you enter it, haunting the senses with equal parts malt and smoke. Our cask is a chance at true single malt royalty for a reasonable entry fee.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll