Bowmore 19 (Distillery Bottling) vs Bowmore 19 (TBWC)

For today’s pairing, I sort of cheated a little bit. I usually drink two drams, but today I have all three. Alas, it’s all for science, you see! I had an un-opened dram of Bowmore 15-Year-Old that came with my Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar, which was the “next in the queue” for this journey, but I had it last night, in another review. So I taste it again to create a precise baseline and compare the featured two to see where they fit in. I must say right away that the three are all different, and the barrel in which they are aged made a significant impact on the overall profile of the whisky. So the lesson for me here is to find what I like and keep looking for more of the same [or sometimes even different]. Anyway, let’s dive in, but of course, we need music! Now playing: Julia GjertsenFormations.

First, a quick review of the 15-year-old: it’s been matured for twelve years in ex-bourbon and three in ex-oloroso casks, bottled at 43%, very drinkable and very much “conventional” single malt. Everything about it is just so, like a well-priced hotel on your summer vacation. Do you know what I mean? Well, the 19-year-old Bowmore is pretty unique. It has spent all of its time maturing in first-fill ex-wine oak barriques from the French Château Lagrange in Bordeaux. This makes sense since Suntory owns both [they also own Ardmore, Auchentoshan, Laphroaig, McClelland’s and a bunch of others]. I hate to use this word here, which may even appear to be obvious, but I still must remark that this whisky tastes “winey”. Something I must admit doesn’t really appeal [to my palate]. Here I taste red and ripe fruit, like cherries and apples, with a somewhat spiced finish that has a whiff of an empty wine glass. I add more water to have it shake off that “spoiled grape” aftertaste, but it still lingers there, like a light Armagnac. I’m a fan of Bordeaux, but perhaps not in Scotch, as it leaves something sour and a little acidic. This 19-year-old is a limited edition release [“Exklusive Veröffentlichung auf Amazon“] primarily targeted towards the German market, although I think I snatched mine from Amazon as well [I don’t see it any longer]. Bottled at a generous 48.9%, you may still locate this release somewhere north of £175.

The independent bottling of Bowmore’s 19-year-old single malt by That Boutique-y Whisky Company is something else entirely. It’s a limited release 50cl bottle of 51.4% of un-coloured, un-chill filtered, un-molested Scotch that really brings out the profile of Bowmore. There is no other cask besides the bourbon, and it’s sweet and slightly smokey on the nose, light in colour, and just beautiful to hold. The bottle comes in a “whimsical” box that includes a 4-panel sheet of stickers (Batch #1). How did they know I like stickers? This is my first experience with this bottler, and I must say, I’m impressed. And that praise is all for what’s inside the bottle. The arrival immediately knocks me off my feet. It has a creamy, round mouthful, with lovely caramel and dense umami taste. The cask-strength ABV is almost non-detectable, and I nearly hold back from adding a drop of water – I want to keep it viscous and full. After a few sips, I cannot detect any smoke, but I think it’s because I am getting used to the peat in this Bowmore. I go back for a taste of the other two drams, and they’re thinner and flimsier next to this bottle. Suddenly I want to go out and purchase every single unique expression from this “trading name” of Atom Supplies Ltd, including their blends and unknown secret stashes. Suddenly I don’t mind that this bottle is £175 either. It’s a whole other world, with no post-augmentation or experiment – it’s just whisky the way it should be – that is all that I’ll say here.

To conclude, I think you will guess where I’m leaning. But let’s pause and review the two different bottles. Both are of the same age, from the same distillery, but the barrels are different. This is what it all comes down to at the end. And from this tasting, I have learned that perhaps I’m not so much into the wine-based casks, aged or finished, although I don’t mind port or other fortified spirits (predominantly sherry). But I will not give up, and I spy a whole Wine Cask Series introduced by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. So perhaps there is hope. With that said, I’ll proclaim that TBWC wins this round.

[Update 2/20/22] – I have just finished off the 19-year-old, stashing away 100ml and adding the rest to my infinity bottle. I have tried it again, of course, so as not to “ruin” or influence other whiskies too much. It is less acidic this time and is almost a tad buttery as if the toffee has been liquefying in a barrel of wine.

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