Bought: Tesco, 25th May 2017
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
80.45/100 – Whiskybase (average from 22 member votes)
The Bowmore No.1, new in 2017, replaces the ‘Small Batch’, which appeared in 2014. Both are NAS (no age statement) and matured in bourbon casks so you have to wonder if anyone will notice the difference? The No.1, unlike the Small Batch, is exclusively aged in first-fill bourbon casks, so maturation is quicker. I hope this doesn’t mean the No.1 is younger than the Small Batch, which was young enough!
The Small Batch on Whiskybase ended up with a score of 81.5/100 after 229 votes so the No.1 is lagging behind, although it’s early days yet. Comments on Whiskybase include, “reminds me rather of a strongly diluted mixture of (too) young Laphroaig and Caol Ila” and “the sweet ashes are nothing special but nice. For me this has more than a few mistakes”. At least someone on Amazon says, “wonderful nose you can’t go wrong with Bowmore”, but another comment adds, “spend the extra for the 12yr old. You won’t regret it.” Or get the 9yo if you’re on a budget and prefer a sherry influence instead of bourbon.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Nutella on brown bread, sea salt and a hint of lemon zest.
Palate: Vanilla notes are up front and sweet (though earthy vanilla pod does appear after a minute). Plenty of coastal peat smoke.
Finish: Lingering smokiness.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube about the Bowmore No.1 (May 2017):
Bought: Amazon, 1st December 2016
83.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 156 member votes)
81/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
Independent bottlers have been happily putting sub-10yo age statements on bottles for years but it’s not something you commonly see from distilleries. As aged stock started to run out we’ve seen more and more NAS (non-age statement) bottles creeping onto the market from distilleries, which have usually been met with disdain and disgust from the whisky drinking community. Personally I don’t see what’s wrong with putting 9yo, or 8yo, or even 5yo on a bottle, and clearly Bowmore agree with me. Releases in 2016, the Bowmore 9-year-old, matured in sherry casks, comes in under 10-years-old but has been applauded for its honesty. Well done Bowmore!
Scoring over 83/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. Comments include “I do like the young age which gives it some more edges and spices in comparison to the 15yo Darkest” and “a very respectable dram that I look forward to returning to. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but I would certainly consider recommending it to someone looking to try a sherry-peat combination without breaking the bank”.
Tasting notes from whisky expert Mark Durmel:
Nose: Sherried nose with all kinds of fruit like oranges, figs and nuts. Some burnt coffee beans and wet newspaper. Soft peat. Not very outspoken in my opinion. Kind of docile.
Taste: The body is quite alright and on the palate it turns quite maritime as well. A lot of peat and salt precede the mildly drying wood and sweet fruit. The sherry cask – very prominent on the nose – does not stand a chance on the palate. I get some tobacco and cloves, but this young malt has little else on offer.
Finish: Medium long finish, that leaves the mouth dry.
81/100 maybe a low mark from Ralfy (his 25 minute You Tube review here) but at least he considers it worthy of a video. Bang for buck, this Bowmore certainly seems like a winner.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Bowmore 9yo (Feb 2017):
Bought: Waitrose, 4th June 2016
91/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
80.95/100 – Whiskybase (from 436 member votes)
I’m surprised it’s taken me nearly 600 whiskies before adding this classic Bowmore to my collection. Or am I surprised? It’s a nice enough whisky but unlikely to be an investment and there are cheaper examples of Bowmore on the market. As Islay whiskies go the Bowmore 12yo is in the same price bracket as the Laphroaig 10yo, which is arguably nicer malt for Islay fans. But the Bowmore 12yo does have its place on the market, especially for those who’d like to give peat a try without going headlong into an Ardbeg gustatory tongue-tango.
Scoring 91/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible classifies this single malt as “brilliant”. Mr Murray says of the taste “soft, beautiful delivery of multi-layered peats; lots of effervescent spices and molassed sugars; spices abound.” He summarises with “this new bottling still proudly carries the Fisherman’s Friend cough sweet character, but the coastal, saline properties here are a notch or three up: far more representative of Islay and the old distillery style. Easily by far the truest Bowmore I have tasted in a long while with myriad complexity. Even going back more than a quarter of a century, the malt at this age rarely showed such relaxed elegance. Most enjoyable.”
81/100 on Whiskybase is a good mark but what you’d expect from an average of over 400 votes for a 12-year-old single malt. Comments include “disappointing overall, too watered down, I expected more from the price and pedigree”, “works better overall compared to the disappointing 15yo” and “very nice profile, of course not complex or full bodied, but nice entry malt/intro to the Bowmore distillery.” Several members feel this single malt would benefit from being stronger than 40% to help with the depth and body.
Here’s Luke Rymarz with his review on You Tube (January 2014):
Bought: World Duty Free, 2nd July 2015
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
79.48/100 – Whiskybase (average from 152 member votes)
Before I go to an airport I like to plan in advance what whisky I’m interested in. This might work if ‘World Duty Free’ list all their available whisky online but they don’t. When I got to Gatwick airport I discovered several new spirits including this Bowmore. It was also reduced to £40, which seemed very reasonable for a 1ltr bottle. I quite like the subtle Islay flavours of Bowmore so I decided to take the plunge and buy a bottle, even if it was obviously riddled with caramel colourant.
Around 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable mark but it doesn’t help that one member rated it 1/100 even though they loved it. You have to hope that the other 151 voters managed to get the scoring system correct. A member scoring the ‘Black Rock’ 85/100 said “while I’ve had better Bowmores, this is a surprisingly well made dram. It’s young alright but it does not suffer the young age maladies, and feels very good on the palate, with the right balance of peat and sherry. A good buy if you’re a Bowmore fan and you’re travelling soon. I liked it quite a bit.”
Scoring 87.5/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible classifies the Black Rock as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. He describes it as a friendly, full-bodied dram with smoked toasted fudge as the main theme with a vague backdrop of cinnamon and marmalade. He summarises with “if you are looking for a gentle giant, they don’t come more wimpish than this”.
Here is a whisky tasting by Horst Luening of Whisky.com (YouTube Sept 2014):
Bought – Sainsbury’s, 22th September 2014
80.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
81.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 69 member votes)
I’d hate to know what Bowmore describe as a “Large Batch” given how long I’ve seen bottles of this “small” batch on the shelves of local supermarkets. Perhaps a large batch of Bowmore would go on forever, or until someone noticed that the level of the Irish Sea had gone down. Thankfully I can’t see any fish swimming around in my bottle!
The Whisky Bible has very little to say about this single malt. Small by name, small by review. It does however score 21/25 for taste, which equates to a very respectable 84/100. Just shy of 82/100 on Whiskybase is a surprisingly good score with comments of “well made for a young malt” and “seriously good value for money”.
As I write this, Morrisons supermarket have this Bowmore for £24.99 but I’m stunned to see that The Whisky Exchange online are trying to sell it for £36.99! It’s certainly not worth that much. £25 is a fair price for this non-aged statement single malt that will give you a pleasant taste experience from a good, well established Islay distillery.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com on You Tube with his thoughts about this entry-level Bowmore (April 2014):
Acquired 3rd October 2013. Part of my ‘Customs & Excise’ collection.
91/100 – Whisky Bible 2013 (for the modern version)
89.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 110 member votes)
No review from Ralfy of www.ralfy.com on this specific bottling but he bought a full size version in an auction which he reveals in this following video 7 minutes and 30 seconds in: Buying whiskies at auction. He mentions doing a review in the future where he compares this old version of Bowmore with the current one. Perhaps I’ll do that one day, once I’ve bought a new 12yo.