Bowmore Small Batch is 100% aged in ex-Bourbon casks and when I first tried it at a Bowmore tasting (2013, shortly after its 2012 UK launch) I quite enjoyed it. In-fact it was my favorite thing we had that night at the tasting. A few months later I tried it at a whisky festival and didn’t care much for it and maybe a year after that I ordered it at a bar and was sorely disappointed. It was not the whisky I remembered from that first tasting. Then in late 2016 I decided to bit the bullet and buy a bottle to review and I’m sorry to say that I’m enjoying it even less than when I last had it at the bar.
In Bowmore’s Words: Bowmore Small Batch
“Exclusively matured in first and second fill ex bourbon casks, then blissfully married together, Small Batch exhibits the best qualities of both. First-fill bourbon offers delicious vanilla sweetness, subtle spices and bourbon oak smoke to complement Bowmore’s gentle peaty smokiness, while the second-fill cask enhances Bowmore’s fresh fruity complexity and showcases its trademark honey and creamy malt character.”
I don’t really get much of what they’re talking about above in this bottle. Though that could have been in regards to that first batch, but how many “small batches” have they put out since its release and what exactly do they mean by “small batch”? They don’t mark the batches on the bottles and in regards to the size of the batches they say the Bowmore Small Batch was “launched in response to consumer demand for special and small batch whiskies…a genuine release of limited volume, vatted in restricted quantities…’ Basically they’re the only ones who know and they’re not telling.
My current theory, outside of changing tastes, is that maybe they’re now several batches into this release and they’re using less first-fill bourbon barrels. It’s possible the first release used more first-fill barrels which would give it more of the bourbon character and that’s what hooked folks the first time around and that’s why I like the first release so much. Anyways, there’s no way of knowing so here we go with the Bowmore Small Batch review.
Bowmore Small Batch Info
Region: Islay, Scotland
Mashbill: 100% Malted Barley
Bowmore Small Batch Review
Watery apples, pears, motor oil, peat, artificial honey and charred plastic. Light caramel frosting and a farmy malt that gives it a funky earthy underpinning.
Smoke and funky earthiness with light layers of plastic, fertilizer (yes I got tricked into eating some as a kid), artificial honey, stale dried fruit, burnt cocoa and artificial sweetener. The plastic note reminds of chewing on drink straws.
Medium drawl of burnt cocoa, plastic, artificial fruit and a faintly citrusy wax.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Not balanced, thin body and a watery feel.
I’ve never shied away from saying I’m not much of an OB Bowmore fan, but this Bowmore Small Batch is by far the worst I’ve had since the FWP and Legend days. There’s a plastic essence that runs throughout, but is the most powerful in the aroma. The palate on the other hand has this inescapable background note I can only describe as “rancid medicinal”. It’s light and takes a while to build, but once it kicks in I can’t un-taste it.
It’s kind of funny, Bowmore is responsible for some of my all-time favorite whiskies and it’s also responsible for some of my least favorite whiskies when we’re talking about their OB line. When we’re talking about NDP bottles, it’s hard for me to find one I don’t like. Such an odd distillery for me.
SCORE: 70/100 (C-)
Bowmore Small Batch Review - Score Breakdown
- Nose - 75
- Palate - 67
- Finish - 68
- Balance, Body & Feel - 70
Bowmore Small Batch is not very good. I’d never pick up a bottle again.