Betrayed by the Bowmore

Bowmore 12 year old

From the Bowmore website, which promises “Puffs of peat smoke and pools of honey, sharpened by lemon zest.” I think not.

I don’t always drink Islay single malt, but when I do I drink Bowmore. In addition to peat and smoke there’s an extra note that might be called seaweed. It’s easy to conjure up a picture of a bubbling spring flowing through moss somehow intertwined with kelp to produce a salty, bracingly acidic base for the intense smoky complexity of the malts.

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the legendary 1991 Port Matured and then some proprietary bottlings from K&L Wines which are offered at cask strength (close to 60% ABV, which is half again as strong as off the shelf whiskeys). I had also tried and dismissed the “darkest red” which is sold at retail. But it wasn’t until my supply of the cask strength bottles ran low, and I saw that K&L had no more on offing, that I panicked and ordered some bottles of the 12 year old at close to $50 each.

And you know what? It’s fine as a well Scotch, but for anybody looking for peat and smoke it’s a total disappointment. I can’t believe the accolades that are all too easy to find on the web which I think are from people giving credit to the Bowmore brand and think this bottle is a relative bargain. It’s not. Trader Joes’ Finlaggan provides more smoke and peat for 1/3 the price. And while I’ll admit the Bowmore 12 is a bit more complex than Dewar’s, my go-to drink in a bar, I could get 1.75 liters of Dewar’s plus a bonus pocket bottle for what I’m paying for my 750 of Bowmore 12 year old.

I like to advise folks on what to eat and drink in this blog, not what to avoid. But this is just too heinous. Go elsewhere for your Islays, or seek out the rarer Bowmore bottlings and be prepared to pay the price.

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