Today is not only the exact day I started blogging again four years ago, it is also the 1000th post on MaltFascination.
To celebrate these things without indulging too much I decided to taste something really special. I can’t taste several special things in a row like some other bloggers regularly do, since my wife is 39 weeks pregnant and I have to be in driving condition all the time. I’m on call, so to say.
Right after the birthday tasting two weeks ago I received a package from Teun van Wel, Mr. Maltstock, containing a sample of this 1968 Bowmore. I’ve been eyeing this bottle in his collection for a while but the time never felt right to order a € 50 sample to give it a try. Now he sent it to me as a gift. Good things come to those who wait?
I’ll probably do some posts reflecting on four years of blogging and how I feel about things now, but that’s for another day. Let’s just do this review!
There is a lot going on here, that’s clear from the start. Mainly fruit and spices at first. A heavy scent of cereal, a bit like an oatmeal mash. The peat pops up after those initial scents. So, peat, with some other Islay flavours like salt, iodine and rope. A tiny hint of ammonia as is not uncommon in 1960s Bowmore. Lemon curd and blood orange too, rather sweet, but very gentle and complex. After a while I get a scent of apple and well matured Calvados.
The palate is a bit more spicy than I expected with and orange sweetness and some white pepper. Salt, peat, but also heather. After a minute of ‘swimming’ it does get a little bit drier. A rather oily texture with the tiniest hint of iodine too.
The finish is fruity too, in a 1981 Lochside way (this should probably be the other way around, right?). Tropical and I suddenly get more peaches, but also the blood orange that was there earlier on the nose. It’s very smooth and has a certain earthiness with autumn leaves. Orange marmalade. The saltiness is present too, and it lasts long. Very long. I was still properly tasting this dram after half an hour or so.
This dram was two things. One: Absolutely f-ing spectacular. Two: A reminder of some sorts. I generally expect, when I taste something legendary, that it’s going to be all kinds of new and grand flavours. That is, of course, not the case. What such a whisky brings you and why they’re legendary is not because they veer so much away from common ground. They are so hugely appreciated because they do what whisky does, bring flavours that whisky bring, but they’re just better at it. They give you the expected flavours but the balance is stunning, the smoothness and complexity makes you sit back and just enjoy the moment. That kind of stuff.
So, this dram then. This is a bloody great whisky. Not the most intense dram ever, not the most fruity, not the most salty, not the most spicy, it stays in the middle of all flavour groups, but the quality is stunningly high. Absolutely great stuff and lots and lots of kudos have to go out to Teun for sending me this.
If you get the chance to taste something like this, and you appreciate the fact that you have to take your time and NOT expect some flavour bomb that blows everything else out of the water in sheer immensity, go for this. Spend those five tenners. If you want some kick-in-the-balls Octomore like intensity, don’t.
Another interesting thing that I’ve come to more consciously realize lately is that very old bourbon cask matured whiskies start tasting a lot like gentle sherry matured whisky. I wonder if this is because the whisky gets some serious time to break down the oak, oxidize in a different way, or if bourbon in those days was just very different.
Bowmore 1968, 37yo, 43.4%, available in auctions for some serious Benjamins. Expect to pay over € 1200 for a bottle.