Much has been said about how whisky styles have changed over the decades. That opinion is widely shared by those who started their sampling journey in the 1980s where most single malts were distilled in the 1970s or earlier. Yet most of these impressions remain in memories rather than the opportunity to test the theory.
Today, obtaining a sample of such earlier styles is challenging… most are found in private collections or auctions. Which is where this lovely little Bowmore 12 year miniature from the 1970s came. A wee dark coloured squat bottle that simply stated its age, alcohol strength and that it was matured in sherry casks. No hint of further details as this was simply a standard issue bottling for its time.
Bowmore 12 year (1970s – 80s) 40%
- Nose – Hing (asafetida), pomelo, passion fruit vying with grapefruit, smoke and peat yet quite restrained, subtle, as it continued to open more fruit like cashew, pineapple and mango
- Palate – Just as hing was the 1st predominant aroma, cashew fruit was on the palate, intensely sweet and dangerously drinkable with just a kiss of peat, brilliant body for a 12 year as it really sits on your palate
- Finish – Peaty, leather, chocolate
This may sound a bit fanciful, but it had a joyful character on the nose, bright and fruity, superbly accessible and enjoyable on the palate with peat most pronounced in the rather delicious finish.
Like the Glen Grant 60 year old just sampled, this Bowmore was matured in sherry casks – but clearly of a different calibre and character than today’s sherry. Again, much more restrained overall, even the peat quality was faint – leading to speculation of re-fill sherry casks and curiosity about how the “barely there” peat quality came into play.
It truly was such a contrast in style to any Bowmore sampled in the last few years – which are often quite bold in character. Whereas this wasn’t clamouring for attention by swaggering into our senses, instead gained exclamations of “Fantastic! Stunning! Superb!” for its much more nuanced dimensions.
For some, it was the clear favourite of the evening – no simple feat given its competition!
Krishna shared his opinion that this Bowmore 12 year has all the “beauty of the old style.”
He went on to regale us with the tale of the term “FWP” (French Whore’s Perfume) used to describe a shift in character – particularly pronounced from Bowmore post Suntory coming into the picture for a few years. First detected by some whisky enthusiasts, they identified a peculiar soapy quality that they felt ruined the whisky… later linked to the soap used to clean the stills!
Since corrected, another Malt Maniac Serge shares:
The original ‘problem’ originated in the 1980’s and was corrected at some point during the 1990s. The FWP spirit sort of worked its way through the system and you shouldn’t detect the unsavoury FWP trait any more in bottlings that were released in recent years.
This 5 ml bottle was purchased by Krishna Nakula for £8. For those interested, a 740ml bottle could be found on Whisky.Online.com for a mere £450.
What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?
- Glen Grant 60 year (Oct 1950 – Nov 2010), CS No 2750, 2760 40%
- Bowmore 16 year “The Prestonfield” Vintage 1972 (28 Feb 1972 – 1988), CS No 1036-39 43%
- Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7% (Adelphi)
- Caol Ila 36 year (1980-2016) 52.3% (Cadenheads)
- Laphroaig 19 year (Oct 1996-Feb 2016) Cask No 10720 53.9% (Old Particular)
PS you can contrast my sampling of a more recent incarnation of the Bowmore 12 year here.
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