We sampled completely blind, having no idea what we were sniffing, swishing and swilling away… until the reveal…
Bowmore Gold Reef 43%
- Nose – Soapy peat, ash, carbolic were clear initial top notes that then subsided to reveal spice and sweetness, with roasted red peppers, Mexican beans, ham and bacon, then shifting from peatier qualities to fruity sweet, then coffee nuts and raisins, new leather shoes, with a sherry quality, nice and sweet, almost herbal, then green capsicum, followed by cinnamon
- Palate – Heavy peat, mint with a curiously ‘closed’ quality after such a multi-faceted nose. Very dry, woody, a bit sour, yet a faint feel of cod liver oil – it may seem a contradiction to have it both heavy almost oily yet be dry, but there you have it! Again the cinnamon came to the fore…
- Finish – Very dry, long, spicy, cloves, ash oily
- Water – This one asked for a few drops… which transformed it into cinnamon candy, that ‘is it or isn’t it oily?’ quality clearly shifted into oils, with a soft sweetness, taking it from the territory of ‘not sure about this one’ into the ‘dangerously drinkable dram’ dimension, going from bold to subtle. Remarkable.
Overall we liked it and appreciated the different layers. There was an interesting ying/yang interplay of “manly” peat with cinnamon sweet.
Speculation turned to what could have made such a dram – our sense was likely a mix of sherry and bourbon, clearly peat!
But which distillery? One member immediately piped up “Well… it doesn’t have a typical Bowmore character”…. So we moved on to other possible Islay distilleris but were stumped.
I had my tasting notebook and flipped back to earlier pages to read….
- Nose – Treacle, apple, summery caramel, toasted coconut, marzipan, with tropical fruits. Maple syrup joined peat with sweet vanilla and hint of spice
- Palate – Peat, citrus, heat, bitter chocolate, a bit of dry wood
- Finish – The heat opens up revealing honey sweet, cinnamon then settles into a bitter finish
So we had peat, dry wood and cinnamon in common but as for the rest? It was like we were having a completely different whisky!
We then turned to the official tasting notes:
- Nose: Vanilla, coconut milk, delicious baked peach, oranges and lemons
- Taste: Tangy peat, pineapple, juicy mango and kiwi fruit tempered by sea salt and olive oil
- Finish: The long, honeyed, zesty finish
Again… much puzzlement and head scratching… Other than the peat and maybe – just maybe – olive oil, the balance was… huh??
We began to try to find out more about this whisky. Sure enough – ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks…. and also caramel colour.
We all know palate is personal – my impression may be quite different than yours. Which is what makes tasting together so much fun – comparing and contrasting impressions and insights.
Two different tasting groups. Two completely different experiences. How fascinating.
What did we sample with our Islay trio?
- Bunnahabhain Eirigh na Greine “Morning Sky” Batch 5, 46.3% – Provided by our host exactly 2 years ago from Batch 1 – August 2015
- Bowmore Gold Reef 43% – Also tried as part of a Bowmore Travel Trilogy by the Whisky Ladies in April 2017
- Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2% – I shared tasting notes from an earlier experience in April 2015