Bowmore Tempest Batch No. 3
Review: Bowmore Tempest Batch No. 3 (89.5/100)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January 24, 2013
The Bowmore Distillery is the oldest of the Islay Distilleries in Scotland, (and it is one of the oldest distilleries in all of Scotland). It has sat at the edge of the sea on the craggy coastline of the Hebridean Island since 1779. This location close to the sea and of course close to the rich Islay peat has been linked to the distinctive floral and smoky character of the Bowmore Whisky. This character is a result of rich peat flavours being absorbed by the barley as it dries under the peated fire of the malt drying kiln, and of the whisky aging in the famous Bowmore seaside vaults (which are below sea-level) as the briny seaside air is allowed to mingle with the oak aging casks.
The Bowmore Tempest is a relatively new 10-year-old peated whisky aged in first-fill bourbon casks. (A first-fill cask is one which has only been used once before usually for either bourbon or sherry). This whisky has seen three separate releases to this point. Small Batch Release No. 3 which is the subject of this review is non-chill filtered and bottled at a full 55.6% alcohol by volume.
(I should point out that a new batch renamed Bowmore Dorus Mor (Release No. 1) was recently brought to market in the United States. According to the folks at Bowmore, there was a trademark issue in the USA with respect to its “tempestuous name”. Sourced from the same stocks as the Tempest, Dorus Mor will be only available only in the USA. It is non-chill filtered, with 2400 bottles of the first release bottled at 55.1 % ABV.. (See the press release here: Introducing: DORUS MOR, SMALL BATCH RELEASE NO. 1 )
In the Bottle 4.5/5
The presentation for the Bowmore Tempest is shown to the right. The bottle is in the typical style of a bar room whisky, designed to be easy for the bartender to hold, easy for the bartender to pour a dram, and of course easy for him to store the bottle on the bar shelf. The protective sleeve and the label each convey imagery of a black and stormy sky appropriate for a whisky named “Tempest”. I am pleased that the closure is a high density cork which seals the whisky properly and gives me that nice satisfying ‘pop’ when I first open the bottle.
My only quibble is that I would like to see a little more information on the bottle sleeve or label. Scotch whiskies come in many different styles, and although the whisky is identified as an Islay Single Malt, a few tasting notes on the bottle sleeve would be helpful for the consumer in determining whether this style of Islay Whisky would be suitable for him or her.
In the Glass 8.5/10
Once poured, the Tempest (Batch No. 3) displays itself as a light amber coloured spirit with glints of sunlight in the glass. When the glass is tilted and twirled I notice a few nice fat legs crawling down the side of my glencairn glass consistent with the high alcohol content of this Bowmore. The nose is full of phenolic peat smoke with plenty of rubbery smells rising into the breezes above the glass. Within this menagerie of peat smoke are some welcome scents of orange peel, lemon grass, and hints of floral woodland (heather, lavender and wood spices). A mild effervescence exists which borders on the edge of astringency, no doubt a reminder that the spirit is a full 56 % abv.
I allowed the glass to breathe a full ten minutes, but the character of the aroma remained constant, I do not know whether this will be lovely, or if the Tempest whisky is just teasing me before it will try to kick my tonsils down my throat.
In the Mouth 54/60
My first impression (taking a wee sip) was that the Tempest was rather mild, with lovely flavours of butterscotch and orange marmalade sliding wonderfully around a smokey yet floral and mossy peat. Oil, sap, burnt rubber and resin seep from the peat moss along with a few drips of iodine. Following the smoky peat is a sweet honey nectar and a dash of salty sea brine.
If that sounds lovely, then I beg you … beware. For if your initial greed gets the best of you and your next sip is more of a gulp, then the whisky turns upon you like a snarling beast. An onslaught of wood spices and alcoholic heat rake your taste buds and sear your throat. Yes, in well spaced sips the dram is lovely, take a mouthful and it will knock you to the floor.
In the Throat 13.5/15
Oddly enough, though my throat is heated with alcohol and spice, the experience is wonderful as the whisky exits my throat. As the spice evaporates, flavours of orange marmalade linger along with sweet honey nectar and that lovely ebbing flavour of salty ocean brine. Despite the heat of the alcohol, I found I did not want to add ice or water to dilute the experience. The intense flavour and the spice rush of the finale were brilliant.
The Afterburn 9/10
Bowmore Tempest (Batch No. 3) is a beast of whisky. The initial smells from the glass were a harbinger of the flavour experience which was to follow. Gentle for just an instant before the full onslaught of flavour and spice followed. Frankly, the flavour, the spice, the heat, and yes even that phenolic peat were all simply wonderful. After I catch my breath, I will have another glass.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Islay whisky presents a challenge to the cocktail buff. The peat, the smoke and the iodine is a peculiar mixture more usually reserved for the single malt aficionado than the cocktail connoisseur. I have I found though, that a quality gin may often provide the basis to bring balance to the Islay cocktail.
What Rough Beast
1 1/2 oz Bowmore Tempest
3/4 oz Citadelle Reserve Gin
1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
1/4 oz vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
Place an orange slice in the bottom of a old-fashioned glass
Add some ice-cubes
Pour the first four ingredients over the ice
Add a dash of bitters
Garnish with a slice of Orange
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)