Last December I started what I hoped would become a tradition on whiskyreviews.net by selecting a special whisky as my final review of the year.
New Year is a big deal in Scotland after all, maybe more so than in any other country (though I once spent December 31st in Berlin and will take the memories of knee high snow and apocalyptic fireworks to my grave). In any case, it is only fitting that we see in the new year with a great dram worthy of the occasion.
Last year I spent a lot of time deciding which whisky to review before settling on the Exclusive Blend 1980 from the Creative Whisky Company – an excellent 35 year old blend of Highland and Speyside whisky. This year, I’d like to tell you that I took just as long over the decision but to be honest, I would be lying.
I’ve gone with a 13 year old Bowmore which I drew straight from the cask at the distillery back in March. I tried a sample in the shop there and from the moment I nosed it I knew it was something special. The thought crossed my mind immediately that it would be a perfect choice for the New Year Dram. The only challenge was going to be keeping some until December. No small feat I assure you.
Bowmore is a whisky that I’ve drifted away from in the past few years but my stay at the cottages adjoining the distillery earlier this year somewhat rekindled my love affair. There is something about drinking a whisky at it’s place of birth that brings forth its finer qualities. Bowmore, like many other distilleries, offers the chance to fill your own bottle in their warehouse and the cask on offer reminded me just how good Bowmore can be. So for me, 2016 will always be the year I came back to this old friend, making it the perfect choice for my Hogmanay dram.
The Scores: About the Scoring…
Smell: 20 / 20. I’ve heard people say that sherry and peat don’t go together, on this evidence they are wrong. Very wrong. Familiar Islay Smoke & Ash notes with Raisins, Sultanas and Prunes along with Dark Chocolate, Honey and Malt.
Taste: 19.5 / 20. Raisin and Sultana with Plum, Toffee, Syrup and warming Festive Spice all underlined with that Peat Influence, less smokey than the nose but still there.
Value for Money: 9.5 / 10. Reasonably pricey at £85 I suppose but this single cask, distillery only expression is worth every penny. It’s cask strength at 54.1%, natural colour (what a colour!), un-chill filtered and gains extra points for the experience of personally hand drawing it from the cask (something I made a hash of, probably losing about £30 worth of whisky down the side of the barrel – sorry Bowmore!).
Overall: 48.5 / 50. A wonderful whisky that not only shows the best of Bowmore but also highlights the magic of a distillery visit. Im sure the cask will be long gone by the time this review goes live but something of similar quality will undoubtedly be in it’s place. A bottle will be on display in the distillery shop, ask at the counter and I’m sure they’ll let you try a sip. Then, if you want to buy a bottle, you’ll be taken to the warehouse and handed a valinch. A lovely experience and nice to have something special to take away from your visit.
And so with that, we come to the end of a years worthbof whisky reviews… all that remains are memories of great experiences and even greater drams. I’d just like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this, or any of my reviews throughout the year. I am grateful to you all and hope that you have found my musings useful and entertaining. I wish you all health, happiness and more importantly, good whisky in abundance in 2017.