New Bowmore, Plus Updates from France
One of the hardest things to do as a retailer/importer is to temper your enthusiasm (I'm terrible at it) when making a large purchase. Charles and I discussed this subject at length during our most recent lengthy drive through Cognac country. How much of the pleasure we derive from tasting is due to the quality of the liquid itself, and how much it comes from the romance of travel? For example, I continue to buy cask after cask of available Bowmore because I will always think about our first night at the distillery in 2011 with Jamie MacKenzie (pictured above with David OG). It was a cold and foggy night and we were fresh off the ferry, our first visit to Islay. I'll think about that wonderful memory each and every time I take a sip of Bowmore whisky, so that's when I have to ask myself: does this latest cask of Bowmore really cut the mustard, or am I letting myself get carried away by sentimentality?
Which brings me the latest K&L single cask arrival: a heavenly 22 year old hogshead that was bottled for us by our friends at Sovereign. Let’s go down the list with what is yet another great deal from our direct barrel program (one that the current Pound/Dollar rate will make difficult moving forward): 1) the standard edition of Bowmore 25 year sells for about $400, while the standard 18 year comes in around $130. At full proof, this 22 year comes in at well less than the 25 and for only a bit more than the distillery’s 18 year old edition. That’s a great price. 2) Despite the isolated single barrel character, this whisky is incredibly balanced. You’ve got loads of vanilla, plenty of peat smoke, and a lovely, oily texture. You’d think this was blended into a harmony, but it just so happens to taste that way right out of the cask! 3) Finding Islay whiskies with age in this market is getting harder and harder. We can get as much no-name Highland whisky as our customers can buy, but to secure barrels from the legendary peated whisky distilleries is becoming a tough task. I’m doing everything I can to lock down more supply, but the truth is it’s not something I can assume will continue with any frequency at this point. Needless to say, you can’t go wrong with a classic expression of Bowmore. This isn’t an anomaly in any way. It’s everything you hope it will be with no rough edges and plenty of richness to balance out the campfire notes. Plus, my colleague Alex thinks it's one of the best whiskies he's ever had. That's saying something.
We met up with Claudine, Gerald, and Pierre at Dudognon this week for dinner at their home in the Cognac region. If you'll recall, I was here at the end of 2015 and at that time Pierre and I made a blend for K&L: two brandies married together, one distilled from ugni blanc and the other from a rarely-seen grape called montils. We brought it in the following year and it sold through around the end of 2016 during that holiday season. Since then, however, the remainder of that blend has been sitting in a cask, marrying slowly and gaining complexity from the additional oak maturation. We tasted it against the original blend (they still had a bottle on hand) and there was no question: it was way better, so I told him to bottle it up and ship it over ASAP! I'm also going to have Gerald bump up the proof just a bit. It will still say 40% ABV on the bottle because the labels were printed long ago, but in reality it will be more like 42.3%. That extra little kick on the finish made all the difference for me.