Review: Bowmore Legend Single Malt Whisky 86/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 2, 2013
The Bowmore Distillery sits at the edge of Loch Indaal where the briny breezes of the sea blow directly across the warehouses full of Bowmore whisky barrels. As every barrel of Bowmore whisky produced spends at least some of its maturing life inside these warehouses it is reasonable to assume that at least some of that seaside character makes its way into the whisky. As well, the distillery is one of the few remaining Scottish distilleries which produces its own peated malt on its own malting floor. The location of the aging warehouses next to Loch Indaal, and the peated barley produced under Bowmore’s own malt drying kiln have been linked to the unique flavour and character of the whisky known as Bowmore.
Note: I should mention that due to the sheer volume of whisky produced by Morrison Bowmore, there is insufficient room to age all of the casks in the Bowmore seaside warehouse facility to full maturation, nor does the Bowmore malting floor have the capacity to produce all of the malted barley to meet Bowmore’s requirements. However, both the portion of whisky aged in the Bowmore warehouses, and the portion of malted barley produced on their malt drying floor are significant such that these unique characteristics of the Bowmore Distillery are worth noting.
Bowmore Legend is the youngest expression in the Bowmore Single Malt core range. It does not arrive with an age statement, and is produced solely from whisky aged in American ex- bourbon barrels. I was given a sample bottle for this review by Lifford Wines who are the local importer (in Alberta) and distributor of Morrison Bowmore products.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
To the left is a nice picture (J peg) of the 750 ml Bowmore Legend Bottle presentation. As you can see the whisky is held in a tall, clear bottle. This style of bottle is designed to be easy to hold, easy to pour, and of course, easy to store on the bar shelf. The bottle and label are simple but professional, and the result is a classy presentation that does not overstate itself.
I am pleased that the closure is a solid cork topper which not only seals the whisky but also gives me that nice satisfying ‘pop’ when I first open the bottle.
In the Glass 9/10
The Bowmore Legend displays as a nice golden straw coloured liquid in the glass, and the breezes above the glass smell of herbal peat melded into a honeyed butterscotch/caramel. I took a little time to tilt my glass and give it a slow swirl. A crown shaped oily sheen was apparent which held back for a moment, but then released a multitude of slow-moving medium-sized legs.
I allowed the glass to breathe and began to pick out some of the elements that reside beside the peat smoke and honeyed caramel. I notice bits of heather and willow thicket; a lowland hay-field of long green saw grass; some saltiness reminiscent of ocean brine and a few touches of iodine. I also sense some clean oak spices, orange peel, light citrus lemon balm, and a nice wafting of vanilla in the air. The whisky seems lively, and I appreciate that the peat has not devoured the rest of the whisky aroma.
In the Mouth 51/60
The malt brings forward an amalgamation of sweet butterscotch flavour and herbal peatiness across the palate. There is also a pleasant bite of wood spice at the front of the delivery. Within the peat smoke, I taste bits of heather and willow thicket, some oily tar, hints of iodine and brine, and a vague grassy flavour underneath. The lively oak spices bring hot black pepper and orange peel spice forward. Some light baking spices are present as well, and I especially notice a more obvious vanilla flavour in this expression of Bowmore whisky than I have noticed in other Bowmores.
I should make it clear the peat smoke does not strangle the whisky. It is a strong dominant flavour; but the peat carries the other flavours of the whisky forward with it. The result is a whisky which is quite sippable; although I admit I enjoyed adding a bit of ice and a few drops of soda into my glass to temper the whisky and bring the sweeter elements forward even more.
In the Throat 12.5/15
The whisky has a peppery finish with black pepper and light speckles of cinnamon heating the throat. The oak seems to have as much to say as the peat in the exit as I taste as much wood sap as I do oily peat smoke. A nice compliment at the ending is a few trailing flavours of butterscotch and vanilla.
The Afterburn 9/10
I am familiar with the unique taste that is Bowmore, having previously reviewed the 12 year, the 15 year Darkest, and the 18 year old expressions, as well as the new special release Tempest (Batch #3). However, I have to remark that the Bowmore Legend seems to be breaking out of the Bowmore mold. It is as if the distillery has decided to go out of their comfort zone to bring a new style of Bowmore peat forward. I suspect the sole use of American Oak in the aging regimen of the Bowmore Legend has something to do with this as the American oak flavours of vanilla, orange peel and almond were particularly noticeable within the peat and the whisky. The whisky also seems to have more of an oak bite, than some of the older expressions. I enjoyed sampling the whisky. It is a fine dram which I shall be returning to.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Here is a punch recipe suggested to me by Iain McCallum, the current Global Master of Malts for Morrison Bowmore Distillers. I asked him for his favourite Bowmore cocktail, and he drew my attention to this recipe from Dave Wondrich. It was designed for the Bowmore 15 YO Darkest Whisky. However, I have found it works well with the entire core range of Bowmore Whisky!
(Created by Dave Wondrich)
Three Lemons (retain the peels)
3/4 Cup Demerara Sugar
8 oz boiling water
750 ml bottle Bowmore 15 YO Darkest Whisky (sub Bowmore Legend)
1 1/2 cups Sandeman Fine Rich Madera
3 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao
Preparation and Serving
Squeeze the Juice from the three Lemons and set aside
Muddle the Peel from the three Lemons with 3/4 cup of Demerara Sugar
Allow the muddled mixture to sit for 4 to 6 hours
Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar
Add 3/4 cup of the reserved fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
Add 1 750 ml bottle of Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest
Add 1 1/2 cups Sandeman Fine Rich Madeira
Add 3 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao
Stir well and Refrigerate
When serving add 1/2 part water to 1 part refrigerated punch mixture
Serve in a Punch Bowl with a Large Block of Ice
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)