After last week’s review of Bowmore 15, ‘Darkest’, I was lucky enough to get to try the recently-released Bowmore 10 “Devil’s Cask”, a cask-strength 56.9% ABV and non-chill-filtered (Yay!) 10 year-old Bowmore aged exclusively in ex-sherry casks, unlike the 15 year which is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry. Color-wise, this is darker than ‘Darkest’ (heh); it’s actually mahogany in color. There is no indication whether caramel coloring is added, but I would say it’s likely (please correct me if I’m wrong!). You’ll pay a premium for this special release, at retail $90 for a 10 year-old. The cask strength, lack of chill-filtration, and exclusive sherry aging take a bite out of the price, though, and only 1302 bottles will arrive in the US.
The name relates to Bowmore village folklore concerning the Devil being trapped inside a round church (which has no corners for the Devil to hide in) and driven into a maturing barrel of whisky. Cute, but ultimately we’re here for the flavor.
Nose: A dense, regal marriage of dark, reduced sherry, sweet red fruits, and sedate, oily peat.
Palate: Thin bodied. Drying, and intense as befits nearly 114 proof whisky. The flavor is slightly closed off, but hides a bounty of dried dark berries, balsamic, and peat that tastes more like coal and liquid smoke than actual smoke.
Finish: Long, lingering and subtle. Leather, resin, and furniture polish. The reduced dregs of a glass of old sherry. The smouldering embers of a fruitwood fire. On the tail end, dark chocolate-covered dried berries.
With Water: Several drops of water really wake up the alcohol in the nose, revealing more of that oily peat. They also serve to open up the palate, letting out some sticky caramel and bold red wine.
Overall: This is totally unlike the ‘Darkest’ 15-year, and in fact tastes much older and more concentrated. Instead of the wild, fungal brashness of Darkest, the flavors here are muted but sinewy, slow-moving but powerful. The Devil’s Cask drinks like a much older sherry-monster that has given so much up to the angel’s share that it bottles out at a low cask-strength. That’s amazing considering both its youth, and its high ABV. That justifies the price – if I tasted it blind, I would swear up and down that this was 30 years old and 46% ABV. I could wish that the palate wasn’t so closed off – its one weakness.