Bowmore, Bw5, 50.2% – Elements of Islay

Although there’s no official age on the bottle, and most distillers want us to be led by flavor nowadays, The Whisky Exchange has disclosed the youngest whisky in this bottling is from 1996. At the time of bottling, this made it 19 years old.

So, a 19 year old Bowmore, heavily lead (most likely) by mid nineties distillate. That means I should like this with my fandom of Bowmore from that era, right? I’m somewhat less of a fan of the prices that bottlers are asking for 1995-ish Bowmore nowadays, with non-cask strength versions often clocking in at € 150.

This one was at that price point too, but it stands out a bit less since the bottle is only 50cl.

In general, the Elements of Islay range has bottled from pretty good whisky. A lot of it is quite young, by my estimation, and some are not all that interesting (Br, Bn, Ar), I also know quite a lot of the others that I really loved, mostly from Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Port Ellen and Port Charlotte.

Very crisp, grassy smoke. Wet straw and hay too. I also get ‘litterbox’, which in case of Bowmore is a positive thing, like the next ammonia note is. Star apple and a light smokiness. It’s floral too, but only slightly perfumy. Very gentle.

Again, that crisp floral smoke is back. Some ammonia again, and some oak. Star apple, normal apple. Light, but complex and spicy.

The finish is gorgeous and full. Complex with hints of heather, oak, smoke, star apple, hay and some spices.

This is exactly what I hoped it would be. Absolutely gorgeous flavors, even if you don’t get overly thrilled by litterbox and ammonia. In this case, trust me, it’s what made Bowmore famous, in a good way.

The combination of those scents, with the light smoke and the fruits makes this an incredibly well balanced whisky with lots of flavors to discover. If Bowmore at around 20 years of age starts tasting like this from now on, they are on to something.

In a way, these mid nineties Bowmores are a bit reminiscent of sixties Bowmore. They’re obviously nowhere near as good, but the same flavor profile is coming back a bit. They needed that after the atrocious eighties and the FWP horror that came out of that decade.

It also makes Bowmore stand out from the crowd. They seem to be carving out their own little niche of Islay, with them not hopping on the big peat bandwagon. By that I, obviously, don’t mean the blended whisky from Douglas Laing, but the ‘let’s bottle every drop of really peated firewater we can get our hands on trend’ that seems rampant at the moment. I think only Lagavulin is also in that little club.

I’m not trying to diss other distillers on Islay, but with so many releases coming out it’s hard to find the good ones. At least from Lagavulin I can simply buy everything I like since it’s always good (so far), and from Bowmore that is becoming more and more the case too.

Anyway, rating this:


Bowmore, Bw5, 19 years old, 1996 and older, 50.2%, Elements of Islay. Available from The Whisky Exchange at £ 84.95 (for 50 cl)


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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