The Bowmore Legend is a perfect example of why complex doesn’t always mean good. It’s the base offering from the Islay distillery and I have never been able to get into it. In fact, the tasting notes below are from about a year ago (but the picture is more recent) and it’s taken me this long to put it up because I knew I’d have to drink a glass or two to reconfirm / update the notes and I just didn’t want to. It’s as simple as that.
When I did finally sit down with a glass to write this I found that, despite being open for about a year, very little had changed. The caramel had moved up a bit, the floral notes had moved down a bit and the fruit salad notes had flattened out a bit; but other than that nothing had changed. True only a glass or two was missing from it while sitting on the shelf, but it was still kind of odd. I was expecting it to be a lot flatter, raw and alcohol heavy than when I first opened it, but remarkably… not a whole lot has changed. It kind of felt like the Twilight Zone for whisky.
Bowmore Legend Review
Dark Caramel (definitely some e150a here)
It’s a complex bouquet of unpleasant notes. Caramel syrup, floral notes, tropical fruit salad (like the crap that comes in cans filled with heavy syrup), pencil shavings, a weird nuttiness, old candy and salted butter start things out. A few of those don’t sound too bad, almost pleasant even. But, if you mix them all together and add some notes of sea brine, burnt cake, pineapple syrup, dry erase marker, tree bark and an ambiguous dark and sickly cloying essence, things can get unpleasant pretty quickly.
The best way to describe it would be funky burnt sugared toast, but like the nose it’s an unpleasant complex mess that also includes some smoked meat, saw dust, smoke (which I do like), caramel coffee syrup, iodine, burnt coffee, an out-of-place hint of mint and a bag of sad old spices (sad / dusty / expired / stale whatever adjective you prefer).
Burnt orange peel, sour, caramel, malt, smoke, brine and wood that goes on for way too long.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Not balanced; heavy on harsh clashing notes. A medium and mushy body with no real shape to it that runs oddly hot complete this horror show.
I REALLY do not like this stuff. It’s a bitter and angry dram and it’s the reason I was first turned off to Islay single malts in the early 2000’s. I spent years trying to like crap like this, McClelland’s Islay (which is likely very young Bowmore) and an Islay blend that came in a white jug (Utah wasn’t known for its great selection) which ruined Islay for me. It took me several years of tasting and trying excellent Islays like Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Octomore to change my mind and erase my preconceived prejudices. It’s now one of my favorite styles of whisky and feel a little bummed at how many years I spent avoiding it because of a bad experience with this stuff like this.