The Sweet Peat Treat: Bowmore 12

Bowmore 12 and I were not on speaking terms about 5 years ago. A friend brought a bottle to a Scotch and cigar party, and I, with my Laphroaig QC in hand, was not going to be won over by this new peaty intruder. Upon tasting, I recoiled and made a sour face. We didn’t see each other again, Bowmore 12 and I, until just this Christmas, when my darling brother bought me a bottle. I was to meet the beast again, but this time with a more open mind.

Nose: Peat, smoke and citrus. The smoke is very hickory-like.

Palate: Soft, slightly underwhelming. Peat and smoke, with pleasantly sweet-and-sour lemon notes. Like a smoky MinuteMaid lemonade, sort of. A little Caol-Ila-ish at times.

Finish: Rather short, lingering sour peat. Sour, of course, meant still in that good way. Like a lemon.

Grade: C+

There isn’t much to say about this whisky. It’s smooth, smoky and sweet. A little too mild at times to make it perfectly balanced over its few notes, but it’s not nearly as bad as I first thought. It’s a daily drammer when you want that Islay profile with a bit of sweetness, but don’t want to think too much about it. If the tempest is any indication, this would probably be much better in a 12yo cask-strength, truth be told. All in all, I’m happy that I was forced to come back to this again. We’re now casual friends, Bowmore 12 and I.

A Dram to Share with the Angels: The Arran Malt 12yo CS (Batch 1)

This whisky is tempermental.¬† It’s one of those whiskies that is better without much water at all (maybe a teaspoon). Mark Dermul, the “Toshan Man” says this is a swimmer, but I just don’t get that at all. In fact, I find the opposite: more than a teaspoon kills it. Of course, it’s true that whiskies taste different to different people, so maybe my palate is weak enough that it requires that bang of flavour.

I’ve found that, instead of diluting it with copious amounts of water to calm it down, it’s really better to let it sit for 30 minutes or longer. Letting the angels have a little bit opens it up wonderfully. At least I find I get more from the nose this way. Without too much water, it’s a rich cereal and nut malt first, and soft fruits second. With water, it’s mostly soft fruits, but everything is diluted. A strange malt where the nose dies in water.

Nose: Cereals, brown sugar, apples and honey. The profile sits somewhere between the Nadurra and my old Ben Nevis 17yr Signatory. A little more water and we have soft fruits (apricot, nectarines), vanilla and some serious baked bread.

Palate: Barley, cereals, nectarine, apricot and spice. It’s almost like the “peaches and cream” instant oatmeal that you get from Quaker, except so much better. Nowhere near as artificial. It’s as if it was being made fresh for you.

Finish: Medium-long, peppery and fruity. Some serious apples going on here, but only for a short while. Brown butter on the end.

Grade: B

In early stages, much like my struggles with the Springbank 12 Claret Wood, I found this dram to be sometimes dull and lifeless (no nose to speak of, and a palate that was rather weak) to something that was quite noteworthy, and somewhat beyond it’s years. On a bad day, it performs similar to Cragganmore 12: an average malt that could be something if more care was put into it. On a good day, it rivals some of my favourite young cask-strengths.

After almost an entire bottle, I’ve settled that it’s only rarely “spectacular”, and there isn’t really a method to get it there every time. It’s rough around the edges, and would probably be better @ 14 years. That is only conjecture, though, as I have not tried their standard OB 14yr.