Image of Bowmore 12 bottle and pour in a Glencairn Glass

Ash and Smoke – Bowmore 12 First Impressions Review

Finding Bowmore 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch WhiskyImage of Bowmore 12 bottle and pour in a Glencairn Glass

I don’t have my usual story around finding this particular bottling. I was at a liquor store, wanted to pick up something I hadn’t tasted, and I hadn’t seen any Bowmore single malts anywhere else in Chattanooga. I knew the Bowmore 12 was the distillery’s flagship age statement product, so it seemed like a safe buy. In general, I’m an Islay guy. Peat is definitely my thing.



Pours a beautiful 24 karat gold color that moves lightly in the glass. A turn shows brilliant clarity with bright yellow highlights.There are some faint legs left on the glass after turning. A pretty whisky.


It’s immediately clear this is an Islay whisky. Peat smoke and salty brine dominate, rounded out by some lemony citrus. Whiffs of cigar smoke open up into light toffee on top of well-worn leather. Alcohol is notably restrained, probably owing to the standard 80 proof. It’s easy to get a big nose full of this without burning up your sinuses. Overall, this is a complex and interesting aroma.

Image of Bowmore 12 pour in a Glencairn Glass

Earth, leather, and smoky peat are loud at the beginning. There’s a notable funk that’s almost a bit musty. But it’s interesting rather than off-putting. The lemon that I picked up in the nose eventually comes through. Leather, earth, and funk carry through the finish. Tobacco smoke with some ash stays on the palate. There’s good complexity overall even if the earthiness is a touch heavy. As the dram sits, woody cedar comes through. Unfortunately, it’s ash that lasts into the aftertaste, which I find unpleasant.


Light and a bit oily. Alcohol tingle is present but low overall. There is some astringency which likely contributes to the impression of ash. Altogether, the mouthfeel isn’t very interesting, lively, or rich.

Overall ImpressionImage of Bowmore 12 bottle

For a 12 year old single malt, Bowmore has moderate complexity. While I love peat smoke a little funk (a la Highland Park 12), this scotch gets a little too ashy and tobacco-y. Further, the mouthfeel is pretty boring and just doesn’t contribute to the experience. I could really take or leave this scotch. If it was the only Islay available at a bar, I might choose it. But ultimately, it just doesn’t rise to the competition.



Read our 1989 Bowmore 16 Review

Buy Bowmore 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Brad Lumley on Email
Brad Lumley
Brad is a BJCP Certified Beer Judge-gone whisk(e)y aficionado. Between drams, he's a husband, father of two, and avid CrossFitter.


The Boozy Earl Grey - 1989 Bowmore 16 First Impression Review

[…] The first sip brings immediate earthy peat with candied lemon zest, quickly yielding to light caramel sugar. A breath blown through a closed mouth brings the unmistakable impression of bergamot. My mind travels to sitting in a big leather chair in a cigar room, sipping Earl Grey tea. The finish, unfortunately, is quite brief but nicely smoky with none of the ash that plagues recent Bowmore 12 bottlings. […]

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