Bowmore is not a distillery that leaps to mind when discussing Islay. It should be. Although overshadowed by its mighty (both in flavor and in following) neighbors to the south, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, Bowmore’s whisky displays a restraint that can provide much-needed relief to the bog-soddened palates of peat lovers.
Bowmore’s whisky is certainly peated and unmistakably Islay. However, its notes tend towards smoke and lighter sugars instead of vegetal peat and seaweed. Its water traverses a 19-kilometer journey over all of the faces of Islay, starting in limestone and sandstone hills on the east coast, and then flowing over heather in the hills and peat in the bogs alike. Bowmore’s warehouse is located on the shores of stormy Loch Indaal rather than the Atlantic Ocean, and 40% of its barley is malted on-site. All of these factors combine to yield a well-balanced, not peat-dominated, flavor profile. If peat explosions like Ardbeg are not your thing, try a Bowmore.
Nose: Concentrated smoke, hay, coal dust, cayenne pepper, buttercream frosting.
Palate: Silky smooth and heavy bodied. Malty sweetness upfront, developing into smouldering hay bales, caramel, and white sugar. The peat is well-integrated and refined – not “in your face”, but still clearly Islay in character.
Finish: Long, with typical Islay smoke and slightly bitter charred wood.
Overall: The thickness of the mouthfeel is excellent, and the peat smoke notes are refined and well-rounded. Other notes are too subtle to detect on a first try, but further exploration is warranted. Don’t add any water – it ruins the thick mouthfeel and reveals only a small amount of lemon and floral aroma. I have resolved to look deeper into Bowmore’s product line.