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A special dram for a special occasion
Last December I started what I hoped would become a tradition here on WhiskyReviews.net by selecting a rather special whisky as my final review of the year.
New Year is something of a big deal in Scotland after all, maybe even more so than in any other country (although I once spent December the 31st knee deep in snow in a frozen Berlin and will take the memory of apocalyptic fireworks to my grave). In any case, it is only fitting that we see in the new year with a dram worthy of such an occasion.
Last year I spent a lot of time deliberating over the whisky I should end the year on before eventually settling on the Exclusive Blend 1980 from the Creative Whisky Company, an excellent 35 year old blend of Highland and Speyside whiskies. This year, however, it took me all of about five seconds to select the perfect dram.
The 13 year old whisky was produced at Bowmore distillery on Islay, where I personally drew it from the cask by hand. From the very moment I nosed and tasted the dram, its quality shone through and I knew it was the favourite for my New Year Dram, the only problem I was going to face, was keeping some until the year’s end.
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 its 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 an old friend, making it the perfect choice for my Hogmanay dram.
Smell: I’ve heard people say that sherry and peat don’t go together. They are wrong. Familiar Islay Smoke & Ash notes mix with Raisins, Sultanas and Prunes along with Dark Chocolate, Honey and Malt.
Taste: Raisin and Sultana with Plum, Toffee, Syrup and warming Festive Spice all underlined with that Peat Influence, less smoky than the nose but it’s still there.
Thoughts: 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, by the way. I probably lost about £30 worth of whisky down the side of the barrel – sorry Bowmore!).
This is a wonderful whisky. It exemplifies not only the best of Bowmore but the best of single malt Scotch. It’s up there with the very best whiskies I’ve encountered. It could maybe even top them all. It also encapsulates the magic of a distillery visit. I’m sure the cask will be long gone by the time this review goes live but something of similar quality will undoubtedly be in its 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. It is a lovely experience and gives you a nice souvenir of your visit that can’t be bought anywhere else.
With that, we come to the end of a year’s worth of whisky reviews. All that remains are memories of great experiences and great 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.