Islay’s iconic Bowmore is adding a new whisky to its lineup, a 30 year old bottling which will be sold as an annual release.
This 2021 bottling was distilled in 1989, aged for three decades in a combination of sherry hogsheads and bourbon barrels. Per the company, “It is matured in the legendary Bowmore No. 1 Vaults, one of the world’s oldest maturation warehouses. Selected from just two casks each year, this is an exceptional single malt that embodies the last thirty years at the very core of its character.”
Now that it’s finally in bottles in 2021, let’s give it a try.
The dark tea color is immediately indicative of a well-aged whisky, and nosing the glass backs that up. Sharp and bold, this is heavy on the sherry casks, a boldly nutty aroma offering notes of oxidized wine, almost Madeira-like at times. Some savory, beefy elements emerge in time, backed up by a salty iodine note and a well-tempered, gentle peat character.
On the palate, notes of strong brewed tea pair with a sharp Madeira wine character, rolling from there into notes of briny seaweed, smoked kippers, and a brooding haze of smoldering campfire embers. The finish offers some fruit (at last) — grilled peaches and lemon shortbread, filtered through notes of dried tobacco.
It should go without saying from all of the above description that this is a wildly complex and vibrant spirit, as one would hope for when outlaying the kind of coin that a 30 year old single malt demands. While it tends to careen rather wildly from one flavor note to the next, sometimes seemingly without much rhyme or reason, it’s never short of a great ride to be on.