After a five year hiatus, in 2017 the folks at Bowmore re-introduced their aged statements within travel retail stores with the release of their 10, 15 and 18 YO Travel Exclusive Range. NAS whiskies in general have been on the receiving end from the very start, frowned upon at the get go; many times the perception being such expressions are perhaps a way by which distilleries could better manage their existing reserves while also disposing of younger spirits with cash registers still racking in the moolah. But in all honesty this is not always the case. And though this might not have necessarily attributed to the change of heart; the return of all things numbered was certainly well received by consumers.
Bowmore’s Travel exclusive range pay tribute to ‘Vault No 1‘; the world’s oldest whisky warehouse, sitting off the edge of Loch Indaal. The 15 in particular, has been matured for a minimum of 15 years in first fill bourbon barrels (~200 litres) and the larger hogsheads (~250 litres). The colour is dark and rich, very much aligning to the phrase, “Golden & Elegant” plastered across the bottle and it’s casing. Misleading if the colour isn’t natural; which it certainly isn’t, since the spirit has a dollop of caramel E150a colouring in it!!
ABV : 43%
Eye : Deep copper
Nose : Smoke with a fusion of brine, seaweed and wet ash are joined with bits of sweetness from raisins, caramel and slices of cantaloupe topped with dark chocolate shavings. Carbon and sun-dried tomatoes are soon disrupted by lighter nuances of dried ginger and powdered black pepper.
Taste : Buttered raisins and salted vanilla along with a drizzle of honey lies afloat on the palate, ushered by a host of tropical fruits, slices of pau pau and mango. Earthy and herbal with a strong peaty aftertaste; followed by crushed cardamom and star anise.
Finish: Red Grapes, caramel, and seaweed | medium to long.
The Bowmore welcomes the palate with its oily, silky texture. Quite peat rich and very much in its own right, this expression is not as damp and heavy as the Laphy but falls short of being light or dry as the Ardbeg, sitting somewhat in the middle. The sweet-peat combo forces itself at first, cushioning the deep honey and fruity flavours, the spice at the end is inviting and at the same time intriguing. There are lovely tropical influences emanating from the whisky, testament to the influence of first fill bourbon casks on the spirit.
However, If I were to critic, I feel the whisky does faulter by an inch from being described as a well deserving expression and I can’t explain why. Still a lovely whisky with a fair bit of depth and that signature Islay profile that shows its love for peat and at the same time keeping very true to itself.
Preference : A few drops of water to calm down those peaty flavours, should you not be the peat-affinite.