Bowmore 17, 2003-2021, Barrel 81, 57.8% – The Single Malts of Scotland

Some distilleries have great years (Caperdonich 1972, BenRiach 1976, Port Ellen 1978, Clynelish 1995, and so on). However, very few distilleries have bad years. For example, Bowmore is pretty shit if it was distilled in the 1980s, generally.

An overwhelming aroma and flavor of what is ‘lovingly’ called FWP, or French Whore Perfume permeates most, if not all, Bowmore whiskies from that decade. Interestingly, there are quite some Glen Gariochs and Auchentoshans from the same decade that show that too, so it is likely to have been some company wide thing…

Anyway, in the case of Bowmore the 80s stand out so much, because everything before and since is so very good. Bowmore from the 60s and 70s are legendary. Bowmore from the mid-nineties is too. And with stuff from 2000 onwards getting into some nice age ranges, we’re slowly finding out that these whiskies do everything the way they’re supposed to as well.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to be in on this, and this 17 year old Bowmore will set you back almost € 300. Let’s not even get into what older whiskies from the Islay distillery will cost…

So, we went into this one with high expectations, but also with a bit of apprehension, due to the hefty price tag. It must be VERY good to be worth € 279, right?

Image from Whiskybase

The nose is a combination of bourbon wood, with some apples and vanilla, a surprisingly light smokiness, and the typical lemon and oak from the distillery. There’s a scent of all-purpose cleaner, with alcohol and lemon, but strangely, in a good way. There’s also the Bowmore typical scent of ammonia, but far in the background and therefore, again, in a good way. It makes for a very complex nose with many layers to peel back.

There’s a lot more oak and smoke on the palate than I expected. It’s quite dry because of it. The smoke is definitely a coastal, Islay style of smoke with hints of brine, sea shells, sea weed. The dryness means there are a lot of notes of straw and tree bark. Apple cores, pear skin, and candied lemon too.

The finish veers back towards the nose. The palate really is the odd one out. Here’s there’s far more typical notes of Bowmore with heaps of lemon, ammonia and a more gentle smokiness. A hint of ginger tea, and a bit of white pepper linger long.

The palate isn’t very Bowmore-like, somehow. After the rather typical nose with notes of ammonia, combined with the other scents, I expected something quite different.

All in all, the nose and the finish are great, but the palate is something I’m not overly thrilled with. Still, this brings a lot of the typical Bowmore scents, and flavors on the finish. Therefore, still quite a high rating. It could have been higher if the palate was more consistent.

But the nose on this one will keep you busy for a while, even if the rest doesn’t…



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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