The Boozy Earl Grey – 1989 Bowmore 16 Cask Strength First Impressions Review
That’s what friends are for
My friend Jeff invited my family over for dinner a couple weeks ago. Jeff actually helped me find my way into single malt scotch late last year when I still thought Cutty Sark was amazing. For me, it was a quick trip from budget blends to single malts, especially Islays. They’re still my favorite, occupying about 80% of my scotch collection.
Jeff shared several bourbons with me that evening (reviews forthcoming). And it just happened to be my luck that he’s no longer interested in scotch. He brought out a box labeled Limited Edition Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 16 Years Natural Cask Strength. He picked this bottle up in a duty free shop on the way from Hong Kong years ago. There were about 5 ounces left, and they now belong to me. Thanks, Jeff!
Finding Bowmore 16
This review is mostly for posterity. You almost certainly won’t find this one in a bottle shop. A quick search of the secondary market turns up one bottle in Italy for $213.13. Still, Bowmore 16 is worth talking about, so read on.
Pours a pale straw color that belies its 16 year age. Some floaties but otherwise brilliant clarity. A turn reveals long, distant, syrupy legs and glinting yellow highlights.
Bright lemon surrounded with earthy peat and whiffs of smoke. There is zero alcohol burn in the aroma. You can really get a huge nose full of this despite its high proof. Soft sugared vanilla is pleasantly balanced with herbal notes.
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.
Velvety and just a little slick with a restrained alcohol zing –more than found in the nose. This spirit doesn’t stick to the tongue at all, explaining the short finish. Enjoyable, but not quite a long enough lasting experience for its proof and vintage.
I wrote this review the second time I tried this bottle. The first time, it took me about 15 minutes to call up a memory tied to the dominant flavor. But once I picked out bergamot, it was impossible to ignore. This is the scotch drinker’s Earl Grey and despite the brief finish, it’s a shame this cask is long gone (as this bottle will soon be as well). As Islays go, this bottling is unusual in that peat is not the feature. But that’s a good thing as the peat supports the bergamot tea impressions so well.
The unfortunate thing about this bottling is that you’re either not going to find it or you’re going to have to shell out at least $200 to get it second-hand. If you’re an Earl Grey fanatic, plunk down the money –you won’t be disappointed. Otherwise, find a friend a like Jeff!