Archive for April, 2011

The Glenlivet is getting ready to roll out new packaging across the core line. I don’t generally post these press releases, as I’m sure you’ll see this info popping up in more prominent blogs and web sites. However, this one stands out to me because of the new Glenlivet 18 Year bottle design. Note the heavier base on this one, to match the 21 Year Archive and 25 Year expressions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a price bump to go along with this change, so you might want to keep your eyes and ears open for any price changes if you’re a big 18 year fan, and buy a few bottles at current prices if that seems to be happening.

On a side note, I think the new design is pretty sweet. 🙂

Press Release


The Glenlivet, the world’s No 2 single malt Scotch whisky, has revealed striking new packaging to provide the ‘single malt that started it all’ with an enhanced luxurious and sophisticated look, in line with its position in the super premium spirits category.

The new packaging to be implemented across the core range, comprising The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve, 18 Year Old and Nàdurra, will remain recognisably The Glenlivet, yet offer a more contemporary, elegant look. Available in all markets including duty free, the new bottles are enhanced with higher shoulders, a shorter neck and an enlarged base giving them a stronger presence, while the embossed stamp of the whisky’s founding family ‘George & J. G. Smith’, continues to portray the legacy and heritage of The Glenlivet. As a strong point of reference for consumers, the cartouche, which indicates the brands history dating back to 1824, has been given a more prominent position on a raised platform.

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old bottle will retain its iconic green colour, recognised by consumers the world over, while the 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve will move to a clear bottle for the first time to showcase the rich golden colour of the whisky. Both expressions will be presented in a new, luxury carton with premium cues to increase gift appeal, while additional information highlighting the whisky’s quality credentials will benefit both aficionados and new drinkers.

The packaging upgrade has seen The Glenlivet 18 Year Old elevated to align with the ultra-premium and prestige expressions within the range including The Glenlivet 21 Year Old and The Glenlivet XXV. Changes to the 18 Year Old bottle design, including the heavier base, signify its status as the most awarded expression in the range and the whisky favoured by many distillery workers. The new bottle is housed in a significantly upgraded permanent gift box.

In addition, The Glenlivet Nàdurra, the non-chill filtered expression in the range, will also be presented in a new, bolder bottle and feature the logos and icons seen across the range while maintaining the individual character of the artisanal, highly crafted whisky.

Neil Macdonald, Brand Director for Malts at Chivas Brothers, comments: “The Glenlivet is recognised by whisky aficionados around the world as an exquisite, premium whisky, and our new elegant packaging will confidently reflect this quality with its striking new shape and luxury cues.

“The stylish bottles and gift cartons will offer increased on-shelf stand-out for the on and off trade and will support our ambition to see The Glenlivet become the No 1 selling malt whisky in the world.”

Since 2005, The Glenlivet has been the biggest contributor to the global single malt category and is only the second single malt to achieve sales of over 600,000 9l cases. In 2010 The Glenlivet completed its £10 million distillery expansion increasing production capacity by 75% to meet global demand.

New Glenlivet bottle design

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There are plenty of resources out there explaining how Scotch whisky goes from new-make spirit to full-fledged Scotch via maturation in casks (I’ll include some links at the bottom of this post). However, I decided to go ahead and do a blog post that pulls together some of that information. More specifically, I want to point out and discuss areas where I often see confusion and debate even amongst whisky enthusiasts. Hopefully I’ve got this down, but I’m open to correction if I’ve screwed anything up. 🙂

Scotch whisky, after being distilled, must be matured for at least 3 years in oak casks before it can officially be called Scotch. It’s right in the Scotch Whisky Association regulations. American oak (Quercus alba) and European oak (Quercus robur) are the most common species used for cask creation. Additionally, most Scotch whisky casks were previously used to mature bourbon or sherry. On a lesser scale, there are other  types of previously used casks, such as Rum, Madeira, Port, Tokaji, and other wines. These are often used to “finish” a whisky after its initial maturation in sherry or bourbon casks, but can also be used for the full maturation period. Springbank 11 year “Madeira Wood”, for example, was matured entirely in ex-Madeira casks.

It’s all oak!

This brings me to the first point of confusion that I’ve witnessed. American oak bourbon barrels are the most common source for Scotch whisky casks. I’m not sure where it started, but it’s common to see the term “traditional oak” used to describe a whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks. I think in conversation, this sometimes gets shortened to “oak.” Now you have people talking about whether the whisky was matured in sherry or oak casks. Oak becomes a synonym for an ex-bourbon, American oak barrel. That’s very misleading.

All of these casks (bourbon, sherry, madeira, etc.) are made from oak. The maturation differences come down to type of oak, whether the wood on the inside of the barrel was charred or toasted, and what kind of (if any) liquid was previously matured in it. Scotch casks can also be re-used, which becomes another factor in the flavor and color profile of the whisky.

Update: Immediately after posting this, I saw a tweet advertising Black Bull 12 Year, along with the claim “Matured in oak.” This is the kind of lame marketing that adds to the confusion. Stating this on the bottle or marketing literature would seem to imply that it could have been matured in something else. Doesn’t it just make them come across as looking either dumb or condescending, and not like somebody you would want to buy scotch from? I supposed the practice could date back to before oak was called out as the required wood type. However, wouldn’t that at least make it “lazy” marketing at this point in time?

American oak. It’s not just for bourbon.

Myth: All American oak casks previously matured bourbon.

This is point of confusion #2. While it’s true that you can generally assume that a whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels was matured in American oak, you can’t assume that an American oak cask was previously used to mature Bourbon. American oak is also used to make sherry casks. In fact, Highland Park uses ONLY sherry casks for the maturation of their standard line of whiskies. To adjust the flavors in their expressions, they play with the ratio of American and European oak casks used, as well as the number of times those casks have been refilled.

Stop giving me the stink eye

When I mention that HP only uses sherry casks, I seem to usually get met with a stink eye look. It seems to be very commonly believed that when Highland Park talks of American oak influence on expressions like the 15 year, they’re talking about ex-bourbon casks. However, their web site very explicitly states that they only use ex-sherry casks. I think part of the reason this is hard to believe is that when you think sherry, you don’t think of America. However, keep in mind that using American oak for sherry doesn’t require that the casks were actually made and used in the United States. The wood can be shipped to, coopered and seasoned in Europe.

I actually wondered about this myself. I believe HP when they say they only use sherry casks, but how do they get the quantity of American oak sherry casks that they need? Then I read James Saxon’s blog post about his Highland Park distillery tour. Here’s how his guide explained it to him…very enlightening!

They have the most dedicated wood policy in the industry – £2 million a year on casks and wood management. This is more than the rest of the industry combined. This was the first I’d heard of it. When it comes to wood, it is Glenmorangie which toots its horn the loudest. Well, like Glenmorangie, Highland Park has its own forests in America where they harvest the wood, lend them to the Sherry industry, then bring them back to Orkney to mature Highland Park. There are no Bourbon barrels in the place, just American oak seasoned in Europe in addition to European oak.

Great stuff! I highly recommend reading the rest of James’ Highland Park tour description, and checking out his other distillery tour reviews on the Scotch Odyssey Blog.

Update: Ok, found another source on the HP sherry cask debate…direct confirmation from Gerry Tosh at HP via Jason Debly’s Scotch Whisky Reviews blog in his nice HP 15 Review.

New Oak. Also not just for bourbon.

Myth: Scotch whisky MUST be matured in used casks.

Scotch is almost always matured in used casks, but there are exceptions. There is nothing in the Scotch Whisky Association regulations prohibiting the use of new (or “virgin”) oak casks in the maturation of Scotch whisky. Meanwhile, there ARE regulations stating that Bourbon must be matured in charred new oak containers. I can see where one might assume that a regulation exists dictating used oak on the Scotch side, but that’s not the case. They just choose to go with used casks to get the flavor profile they’re looking for.

Great resources for more information

  • Malt Madness Beginner’s Guide – The whole beginner’s guide at maltmadness.com is awesome. For information on casks and maturation, check out Chapter 5.
  • Whisky for Everyone – For a quick guide to the types and sizes of casks used to mature whisky, check out this very straight-forward blog post on whisky cask types and sizes.
  • whiskywise.com – Here’s a very comprehensive article on whisk(e)y barrels discussing how oak gives real character to the whisk(e)y.
  • World Whiskey by Charles MacLean – This physical book is highly recommended, especially for the new whisky enthusiast, and served as one of my sources while writing this blog post. At $16.50 from Amazon right now, there’s no reason not to own this book. [No, my link does not earn me any kind of affiliate money]
  • The Balvenie Whisky Academy – The amazing Whisky Academy video series by The Balvenie includes a 10 minute video on Maturation in Module Two (You’ll need to enter your birth date before entering…Doh!). Satisfy your inner whisky geek and check out as much of the series as you can handle. 🙂

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Fancy yourself a whisky connoisseur? I don’t – not yet, anyway. However, I do obviously spend a fair amount of time reading about and tasting whisky. But has all of this focused effort led to any kind of improved ability to discern whisky expressions by taste, smell and color? I’m not sure a single blind tasting is any way to determine that, but from what I’ve read of them, it’s a good way to gain some perspective, and perhaps a little humility. I’m game for that.

My local Single Malt Scotch Society (which I just discovered a year ago) periodically does blind tasting meetings, and I just recently attended my first one. This is a great group to drink and discuss single malts with. They’re much more experienced than I am, some of them being members of PLOWED, so it’s great to hear about the world of whisky from their point of view. Fortunately, it’s a laid back group, and the primary goal is to have a good time, not impress each other with our tasting prowess.

Let the games begin…

Rules of the game

There were 9 of us in attendance. We received a cheat sheet ahead of time listing 13 possible expressions. Of those 13, 10 would be chosen at random by a non-participant (the brother of John, our leader and host). Those 10 were to be poured into jars and numbered. The name of the malt was written on a card and placed in an envelope with the appropriate matching number.

The cheat sheet

Islay malts

  • Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist 1990, 16 yr., OB, 46%
  • Lagavulin 16 yr., OB, 43%
  • Laphroaig 18 yr., OB, 48Q%

Speyside malts

  • Balvenie DoubleWood, 12 yr., OB, 43%
  • BenRiach 1994 Peated Oloroso Sherry Finish, 12 yr., OB, 57%
  • Cardhu 12 yr., OB, 40%
  • Glenfarclas 25 yr., OB, 43%

Highland malts

  • Ben Nevis 1986, 14 yr., Cadenhead bottling, 62.9%
  • Clynelish 14 yr., OB, 46%
  • Highland Park 18 yr. OB, 43%

Campbeltown malts

  • Springbank 15 yr., OB, 46%

Lowland malts

  • Auchentoshan Three Wood, NAS, OB, 43%
  • Rosebank 1990, 14 yr., Whisky Galore bottling, 46%

Upon arriving…we were each given a scorecard to fill out. For each malt, we would fill in the information below. You can get up to 10 points per malt. The winner earns bragging rights in the next society newsletter.

Scorecard breakdown:

  • Region (3 pts): Multiple Choice from:
    • Islay
    • Speyside
    • Other Highland
    • Lowland
  • Age (2 pts)
    • 12 yrs or less
    • 13-17 yrs
    • 18+ yrs
  • Strength (1 pt)
    • 40%
    • 43%
    • 46%
    • Above 46%
  • Cask type (1 pt)
    • Bourbon only
    • Sherry
    • Other Finish
  • Distillery (3 pts)

The Tasting

Malt #1 – BenRiach 12 year

My Scorecard: Speyside (3 pts); 12 yrs (2 pts); Above 46% (1 pt); Other Finish (0 pt); BenRiach (3 pts) – Total 9 pts

Comments: A sherry and peat combination came through clearly. Fortunately, I have tasted a couple of other BenRiach peated whiskies (and own one). There’s something distinctive about the BenRiach flavor of peated whisky (at least their finished ones) that just stood out right from the start. I questioned myself at first, as the cheat sheet didn’t say this was a “peated” BenRiach, but I decided to go with my gut. I’m glad I did! Unfortunately, I screwed up the scorecard on this first one. I put “Other Finish” because it is a “finished” whisky. The correct answer was “sherry.” Basically…I didn’t follow directions.

How I’m feeling (after the reveal): At this point, I’m thinking “hey…I’m going to completely kick ass at this!”

Malt #2 – Rosebank 1990 14 year

My Scorecard: Other Highland (0 pt); 13-17 yrs (2 pts); 46% (1 pt); Bourbon (1 pt); Clynelish (0 pt) – Total 4 pts

Comments: I took one whiff of this, a quick sip, and immediately wrote down that it was the Clynelish. I thought it had kind of a rough and tumble highland flavor that I associate with Clynelish, and I decided to go with my initial instinct. It worked with the BenRiach. A swing and a miss, but the catcher dropped the ball, so I was able to run to first. While I completely missed this one, the age, strength and cask type just happened to match.

How I’m feeling: “Doh! Coming back down to earth, but hey…I’m not familiar with the Rosebank. It just fooled me. I’ll get the next one.” I don’t know if it was because it immediately followed a peated whisky, but most of us were totally surprised to find out this was a Rosebank.

Malt #3 – Clynelish

My Scorecard: Speyside (0 pt); 12 yrs (0 pt); 40% (0 pt); Bourbon (1 pt); Cardhu (0 pt) – Total 1 point

Comments: I was completely stumped on this one. It seemed easier going than the previous dram (Rosebank), so I started down the Speyside track (I think I had Clynelish mentally blocked out because I had just guessed it on the previous dram). I also heard other comments in the group about it being smooth and easy. Only one of the four Speysides looked like it might have only a bourbon cask maturation…Cardhu. Well, it doesn’t seem as smooth and sweet as I’ve heard Cardhu described, but then, I’ve never had it before. A total guess on my part.

How I’m feeling: At this point, I’m thinking “hey…I completely suck at this!”

Malt #4 – Glenfarclas 25

My Scorecard: Other Highland (0 pt); 18+ yrs (2 pts); 43% (1 pt); sherry (1 pt); Glenfarclas (3 pts) – Total 7 pts

Comments: This one tasted a lot like the Glenfarclas 17 year to me, which I’m quite familiar with. However, I expected the 25 year to have a bigger “classic sherry” taste to it. Still…it seemed distinctly Glenfarclas. As we bantered a bit as a group, it seemed like a number of others thought it was HP 18. I couldn’t buy into that, but then, I was completely wrong on the last two. Ok…hedging my bet and going Glenfarclas, but putting “Other highland” for the region, just in case.

How I’m feeling: “Whew! Back in the game!” Although, my failure on the previous two kept me from fully committing. Oh well…I’d take 7s the rest of the way, no problem.

Malt #5 – Lagavulin 16

My Scorecard: Islay (3 pts); 13-17 yrs (2 pts); 46% (0 pt); sherry (1 pt); Ardbeg (0 pt) – Total 6 pts

Comments: This was obviously one of the three Islays. The color was darker than I remember either the Ardbeg ANB or the Laphroaig 18 being. However, I KNOW Laga 16. It’s one of my favorites. I’m not getting that certain iodine/fruit combination that I know and love from the Laga. Hmm…I know his bottle of ANB is 16 years vs. my 18 year bottle. Maybe it’s a little bigger with less vanilla at 16 years (at this point, my mind is playing games, and I’m forgetting about how dark the whisky in my glass is). Ok, if this was Laga 16, I would just “know it”, so I’m going to hedge my bet between ANB and Laga 16. At least they’re the same age, so I should get the region and age right, regardless.

How I’m feeling: I thought I’d be happy with 6 or 7 points, but…“I’m feeling like a complete fraud for not being 100% sure that this was Lagavulin 16, supposedly one of my favorites, and one I’m most familiar with. On top of that, I’m an idiot for not paying more attention to the color.” I felt a little better to find out this was an older bottle, and has been open for a number of years. That might play into it a little. Still…

Malt #6 – Highland Park 18

My Scorecard: Other Highland (3 pts); 18+ yrs (2 pts); 43% (1); Sherry (1 pt); HP (3 pts) – Total 10 pts

Comments: Sherry for sure, with a little peat, but not Islay peat. I hear a couple of people talking Ardbeg/Laphroaig. No way…I know this one. I’m going all in on HP 18, and feeling good about the fact that our host, John, just indicated that he feels the same way.

How I’m feeling: Back from the brink. “Ok…the whisky gods threw me a bone on this one. It’s good to know I can pick out at least ONE of my favorites.”

Malt #7 – Cardhu

My Scorecard: Speyside (3 pts); 13-17 yrs (0 pt); 40% (1 pt); sherry (0 pt); Springbank (0 pt) – Total 4 pts

Comments: Doh! I really let the group banter get to me on this one. After an initial sip, I checked “Speyside” on the card. Now I just had to figure out if it was Cardhu (which I’ve never had) or Balvenie. We then took a break mid-dram to get some food, as our palates were starting to get tired.

After taking a break, drinking some water and eating a few potato chips, I returned to taste some more. I heard others talking about Springbank. Hmm…maybe that sweetness on the close was a sherry cask sweetness. It didn’t taste like Balvenie, though. Maybe it was turning salty…or was that the potato chips? Time up – everybody else has marked their cards. I decide to quickly do a 3-way hedge between Cardhu, Balvenie and Springbank.

How I’m feeling: Like Charlie Brown: Wishy-washy. Sigh…

Malt #8 – Balvenie DoubleWood

My Scorecard: Lowland (0 pt); 12 Years (2 pts); 43% (1 pt); Sherry (1 pt); Auchentoshan (0 pt) – Total 4 pts

Comments: It seemed obvious on this one that it was either the DoubleWood or the Three Wood. I heard others debating the same thing. I’ve only had a single dram of the Auchentoshan before, and I remember it stood out as being very “woody”…more so than I expected from a NAS expression. Well, this one immediately struck me as being woody as well, and it just didn’t quite seem to have that Balvenie honey/apple combination that I THOUGHT I could easily recognize. I didn’t dare look at Adam on my right…he’s a big “Balvenie guy”, and I knew he’d probably be beaming if this was the DoubleWood. I wanted to get this on my own, though. I’m going with the Three Wood.

How I’m feeling: “Doh! (again)” I’m taking it all more in stride, though. It’s become clear that nobody in the group is able to nail these expressions consistently. Heck, even Adam (who sure enough got this one right) admitted that his taste buds are shot and it was the color that he thought gave this one away.

Malt #9 – Ben Nevis 1986 62.9%

My Scorecard: Other Highland (3 pts); 13-17 yrs (2 pt); ABOVE 46% (1 pt); Bourbon (1 pt); Ben Nevis (3 pts) – Total 10 pts

Comments: Everybody nailed this one. This was the only high ABV whisky left on the cheat sheet. It was very good, though.

How I’m feeling: “I just coated my tongue with 62.9% of Highland goodness. Will I be able to taste #10?”

Malt #10 – Surprise…Laphroaig 30 Year!

My Scorecard: Islay (3 pts); 43% (2 pts); 18+ years (1 pt); Sherry (1 pt); Bowmore? (0 pt) – Total 7 pts

Comments: For this last dram, we had a surprise “off the cheat sheet” whisky. John and Richard disqualified themselves (Richard supplied the bottle). We knew, once they announced this, that it was something special (and it was). Up front, there was a gentle but prominent peat, but it lacked the big medicinal, tarry, oily notes you would get from a younger Laphroaig or Ardbeg. It reminded me of my favorite Laphroaig 30 year, but if that was the case, I would expect more red fruits to come out at the end. This one had some wonderful dried fruit notes, but I didn’t get any ripe berries. Certainly, this was an older (25+ years) whisky, and the proof was relatively low.

A few others speculated about the Distillery, with Bowmore mentioned more than once. I suddenly had visions of having the opportunity to taste one of the famous older Bowmores (Black, gold, etc.). Hey, with this group, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody owned something of that caliber.

How I’m feeling: “Oh, come on! This is supposed to be my all time favorite whisky and I couldn’t nail down the taste profile?” Oh well..at least I didn’t think it sucked! In fact, it was so good, I elevated it beyond Laphroaig 30 status and tried to figure out which famous, all but unobtainable whisky it might be.

Total: 62 points.


We added up our points, and believe it or not, I was tied for first at 62 points with Adam! Not so fast, though…after pumping my fists in the air, I realized that with Richard reporting 61 points, but taking a disqualification on the Laphroaig 30, he was clearly the #1 blind taster. Second would be John, who scored 55, but would have had 62 to 65 if he could have gotten points for the Laphroaig. Even with a point tie, I would put John before either of us, as I was “playing the game” and hedging bets, and Adam openly admitted to simply “guessing” the last 4 correctly after his taste buds were shot and his allergies bugging him.

I think a lot of the remaining tasters scored in the 40s, but when you take into account that many were going all in on their guesses (not hedging their bets), there were probably quite a few 1 point scores, even though they may have been close to guessing correctly. I’m also not sure how seriously everybody took it. I will admit, though, that I really, really tried. I was jumping up in between drams and blasting my glass with water in the sink and wiping it with a fresh paper towel, making sure it was as clean as possible. Michael, one of the long time society (and PLOWED) members was laughing at me…saying he used to be the same way. Today, he was just having a great time…he had nothing to prove.

So, what is my takeaway? Trying to guess a whisky based on a blind test is hard! Even if the field is narrowed. However, based on the few successes I had, and realizing how my mind played with me on some of the failures, I DO think there is room for a certain amount of olfactory training when it comes to recognizing distillery profiles. I look forward to practicing more blind tasting at home, and participating in another group event in the future.

How well do you think you know your favorite whisk(e)y, wine, beer or other spirit? Try putting yourself to the blind test to find out…the results may surprise you!


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Continuing on with my Core Islay Expressions exploration, I’m stepping back from the big Ardbeg and Laphroaig malts and taking a look at the two entry-level Bowmore expressions. Bowmore presents a gentler, less phenolic side of Islay peat, and while the uber-expensive bottlings from the 1960s seem to get lots of attention, I never seem to see much written about the more common expressions.

Much of what I’ve seen on message boards about Bowmore focuses on some sort of “lavender” scent/flavor known as “FWP” that appears to have been introduced in the mid-90s, lasting into the early part of the last decade. I’ll let you read more about FWP in this distillery profile on the Malt Madness site. Some real damage seems to have been done to the Bowmore reputation (at least in whisky enthusiast circles) during this time. This issue seems to have been put to rest, though, and I don’t find my 2008 – 2010 bottlings to be off-putting at all.

Bowmore Legend and 12 Year

Tasting Notes

Bowmore 12 Year (2008; 40%; $40)

Nose: Orange and chocolate, reminiscent of Dalmore (more orange than chocolate, though). An equal helping of earthy peat, much like Talisker, but with more of a tea leaf note as it tails off.  This isn’t a strong peat, nor is it very medicinal. Finally, there’s something sweet going on here. I’ve read about Bowmore having Lavender notes before, but this doesn’t seem flowery to me. A pretty complex nose, really. One to sit with a while and enjoy.
Palate: Sweet peat on the palate, along with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg.  It’s not big, but it’s not thin either. Frankly, it could use a bit more oomph, as it falls down a little here in comparison to Talisker or other standard Islay malts. However, if those big whiskies aren’t your bag, then you might find this to be a relief!
Finish: Peat and tea leaves in the back of the nostrils are accompanied by a return of  sweets and fruit. Although, now, instead of oranges, it’s more like passion fruit. On the tongue, I get some more of that Dalmore chocolate with some mild drying. Interestingly, as the dryness wears off, I’m left with a salty after-taste.

Comments: Dang, this is a pretty fine single malt! It has a lot to offer on the nose, and it’s great for sitting with and sipping neat out of a nosing glass. I think the nose promises a little more than the palate/finish can deliver, though. This might disappoint some people. Also, while I’ve decided that the sweet/peat combination is enjoyable, I’m not sure this will appeal to everybody. For me, this is a solid B whisky (84 points)

Bowmore Legend NAS (2010; 40%; $25)

Nose: Very “spirity” at first, screaming “I’m a young malt!” I think there might be a little lemon trying to get through, but it’s hard to say. Getting beyond that, I’m getting a fairly simple nose of peat smoke and toffee sweets. Interestingly, the peat itself doesn’t come across as particularly young. If you’re planning to spend some time nosing this one, let it sit for 15-20 minutes in the glass and the peat comes through more clearly.
Palate: You know those “Sugar in the Raw” packets at some restaurants? On the palate, this whisky is like a combination of that sugar and a reasonably juicy barley/grass component.
Finish: A one-note finish of peat, but it’s an enjoyable, somewhat “pure” peat. It IS a somewhat short finish, though. Nothing spectacular going on here, but harmless and enjoyable enough.

Comments: Ok, this is a pretty straight-forward expression, and the initial, youthful nose didn’t wow me. However, it quickly turns into an enjoyable and easy drinking whisky. For me, this will be a tumbler dram. No need to pull out the nosing copita…just pour a glass and enjoy the sweet barley on the mouth and the clean peat smoke finish. I think I found my Islay version of Glenfiddich 12. B- (80 Points)


The Bowmore Legend is not just a younger version of the 12 Year expression. They’re completely different animals. Actually, the Legend DOES seem kind of like a baby Bowmore Tempest, which I’ve sampled, but don’t have a full bottle of. My guess is that the Legend is matured in mostly (if not all) bourbon casks, while the 12 year is a combination of bourbon and sherry casks.

As I said in my comments above, I think the Legend is a perfect “tumbler dram.” Pour it in a glass and drink it neat, on ice, or mixed with something else for a smoky cocktail. I think @whiskywitch nailed it on Twitter when she said:

Legend has been the “go to” Islay Scotch for lots of my 20-something clients- it pairs well with pizza or burgers + fries

As for Bowmore 12 year, I’ve gained a greater appreciation of this expression over the past couple of years. When Islay whiskies were new and exciting for me, the Bowmore just didn’t seem to hold up to the higher peating in other Islay malts. Now I’ve chilled a bit and can appreciate the more subtle nuances in this whisky. Sometimes it strikes me as Dalmore’s pipe-smoking cousin, and other times as Talisker exploring its feminine side. Actually…if you have both Bowmore 12 and Talisker 175th anniversary on hand, pour a glass of both side by side. They’re really not THAT far apart in terms of nose profile. The Bowmore doesn’t hold a candle to the Talisker on the palate and finish, though. 🙂

I can easily recommend both of these whiskies given the right circumstances. However, if you’ve tried and liked Talisker and are looking to see what this whole Islay craze is all about, the Bowmore 12 isn’t going to break any new ground for you. Laphroaig and Ardbeg are where the main phenol frenzy is at, and Lagavulin is on a whole different plane. Still, the Bowmore 12 year offers a unique take on sweet peat and is very much worth a try. With the Legend, you can check your pretension at the door, party a little bit, and enjoy that smoky finish.


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