Bowmore 10 “Devil’s Cask”

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.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Despite its location on the banks of Loch Indaal in central Islay, Bowmore’s water is derived from the river Laggan, the source of which rises from the hills on the east coast of the island, overlooking the Sound of Islay. The water is diverted from the river and forms The Bowmore Lade. This water is notable for its cross-island trip, picking up heather in the hills, minerals from the sandstone and limestone rocks from which it rises, and peat from the lowland bogs on its trip to the distillery. This yields a light and subtle spirit with a balance of mineral and vegetal. Bowmore still malts 40% of its own barley in its floor maltings. The malt is peated for less time than the more intense malts from the southern Islay distilleries, which contributes to its reputation as a ‘tamer’ cousin, and reputably more ‘smoky’ than peaty.
Bowmore 10 “Devil’s Cask”
56.9% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $90 (suggested retail)
Acquired: (Sample) Courtesy of Savona Communications. Thanks, Manuela!

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  • I don’t believe there is any caramel in this whisky. Ex-sherry cask whisky is often dark enough from the maturation. And caramel is more often added to ex-bourbon casks because the whisky ends up being light.

  • Great night! And really REALLY good wkishy! There are some left, and you tricked me into buying at least a bottle of bowmore. Oh well. Not the worst thing, to be tricked to