Bowmore’s a tough one. One on hand, you have one of the mildest of the Islay peaters, often paling in comparison to the smokey, salty powerhouses from the rest of the island. On the other, you have a well-respected distillery producing highly-rated and critically-acclaimed whiskies. So far almost every Bowmore I’ve tried has resulted in basically the same review: “Yeah, it’s good… I guess.” Hardly thrilling prose. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I approached this entry-level NAS bottling. Young (and cheap) peated malt tends to be rough and acrid, and some people find such whisky undrinkable.
There’s not much info available on Legend, which tends to be the case with these low-end NAS expressions. It’s probably younger than 10 years on average, bottled at the basement 40% ABV after spending time in ex-bourbon casks (no sherry, unlike the 15-year “Darkest” and recent hit 10-year “Devil’s Cask”). That probably makes it a younger sibling to the slightly more expensive Small Batch… a Bowmore “Large Batch”, if you will.
Nose: Well-balanced maritime smoke. Slightly citrusy (lemon), with a caramel malt core, and medium levels of peat.
Palate: Soft, mildly sweet malt. Mineral-flecked seawater, and woodfire smoke.
Finish: Medium-long. Some charcoal, and quickly-fading peat.
With Water: A few drops of water increase the apparent peat level, and also bring more lemon oil and something floral – like lavender. The lemon repeats on the palate. Try a few drops of water, but don’t dilute it too much.
Overall: This is not a malt for peat-freaks. This is a very well-balanced, mildly peated dram for a very respectable price. Often younger, cheaper Islay malts come across as brash, acrid, and bitter. Legend is the opposite of all of these: gentle, sweet, and mildly smoky. It won’t win any awards for potency or complexity, but it scratches the peat itch for under $30 a bottle, and can also serve as a gentle introduction for peat newbies.