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Bowmore is not a Islay malt to be drunk young. The distillery offers a broad range of bottlings at various ages. The baseline Legend has no age statement, but is probably 7-8 years old - and shows it. The 10 y.o. hints better at what makes the brand a classic, but is with the 12 y.o. that Bowmore comes into its own. It's complex, and something of a Jeckyl & Hyde. It's soft and creamy - almost buttery - at the front of the mouth, but quickly adopts a more assertive Islay character over the middle of the tongue. The robust salt and iodine character is moderated by a tantalising range of floral, grassy and linseed flavours. It's warm and soothing - and tastes slightly different on each sampling. Tantalising - just when you think you've got it pinned down, it mutates. It dries out nicely on the swallow, again with salty tones, balanced by the merest hint of sherry and caramel. So . . .they take this superb version and dump it in a heavily sherried cask. And what happens? All the delicacy disappears. Which is fine if you like Macallan-style malt. Sure there's still a hint of salt and seaweed over the middle, but mostly it's sherry, sherry, sherry all the way. It's the 1812 Overture on Jerez steroids - a great roaring crescendo of Olorosa, swamping the subtlety - and this carries over into the swallow and a long, long slowly-drying finish. And there's nothing wrong with that - it's just not what most people expect of the Bowmore experience. Hint - a dash of water does much to excavate the true Bowmore character. And, yes, I have a glass to hand as I write this . . .
Aged for 12 years in bourbon casks and finished in Olorosso sherry butts.