Bowmore, for me, is a confusing distillery and nothing embodies that confusion quite like this early 2000’s Bowmore 21 year and here’s why… it’s not good. With the exception of the Devil’s Casks, which I love, everything I’ve had under the Bowmore name has been mediocre at best. However, the Bowmore stuff I’ve had released under other brands (NDPs), like Signatory and Exclusive Casks, I’ve enjoyed immensely. So what gives Bowmore?
The Total Wine and More Exclusive Casks Bowmore 11 was great and I currently have a 12 year Bowmore Signatory that’s awesome (review coming… sometime). I’ve also had an 11 year K&L Exclusive Casks bottling and an 11 year Sovereign bottling of Bowmore that were both utterly fantastic. So why does it seem like almost everything I’ve had under the actual Bowmore name kind of… well… suck?
Bowmore 21 Review
Age: 21 years
Bottled: Early 2000’s
Sharp astringent & nutty character filled with caramel, burnt butterscotch, dark berry like fruit notes, overripe bananas, orange peel and alcohol which seems to ride really high on the nose. Some dry oak, vanilla and brine add some nice accents but all the good aspects are neutralized by a strong rubbery oily and mechanical background that makes me feel like I’m walking into an Auto Zone. Which is a great smell when I’m picking up something for my car, but thoroughly off-putting in my whisky glass.
A nice tasty peat starts things out, but the experience is quickly shoved off a cliff by heavy handed notes of old / stale caramel, burnt sugar, burnt wires (like an electrical short) and stagnant brine. Things try to come back with a bit of vanilla cake, dried apricots, oak and ash, but again some not-so-great notes of overripe fruit and stale fruit gummies mess things up. There’s also an acidic alkalinity to it, like putting your tongue on a 9 volt.
Dry, alkaline (like touching aluminum foil to a filling), dirty caramel, brine, iodine and oak. Med length.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Not balanced, it’s all over the place with chemical and harsh notes negating and often overpowering the pleasant sweet or earthy ones. The shapeless medium body and strangely hot feel make it just an overall unpleasant experience.
No real smoke or peat to liven it up, it’s a strangely cold feeling whisky that’s hot going down. The palate is more “Bowmore like” than the nose, but that slightly richer flavor is plagued by a cloying bitter chemical nature. It’s definitely better than the Bowmore Legend, but not by much. A great example of age not always meaning better.