TBWC’s Bowmore 27 year 47.6% aka The “Green Pepper” Dram

There are times when a whisky sings a particular note… with such clarity and consistency that your impression of that dram is forever associated with that note.

I must admit, until this Bowmore, green pepper was never such a singular stubborn element.

We sampled it blind before the reveal.

Bowmore 27 year, Batch 5, 47.6% (TBWC) Bottle 94 of 285

  • Nose – Peat and how! Crazy sweet peat, bit of funk, fruit, some phenols, medical, surgery, bill capsules, VERY sweet, mulberry
  • Palate – Fresh capsicum which seamlessly follows through on the finish, a bit of green tea…
  • Finish – Dry and pure capsicum

After the 1st sip, it was pretty clear this whisky needs some time to settle down…

  • Nose – How interesting… the peat ran off, barley sugar, toffee, something almost like apple sauce, lemon curd tart, and apricots
  • Palate – A bit of spice, cinnamon, a bit bitter at the front
  • Finish – A nice cinnamon

We set it aside and what did we find?

  • Nose – Green capsicum
  • Palate – Goodness! Green capsicum
  • Finish – And…. gee….. Green capsicum

Now before you start to think green capsicum is a bad thing, it was actually quite good!

Giving even more time, we could detect a hint of ash. Even later… pickle? Yup… pickle.

This is one of those whiskies which is worth checking out but…  certainly not an every day dram. Instead one of those whiskies that works best when you are in the mood for it… particularly if you happen to enjoy…. yup… Green Capsicum!

What do the folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have to say?

The massively well-loved Bowmore distillery has resided on the Isle of Islay since 1779 – it’s the oldest Islay whisky distillery and it’s still going even today! The distillery is home to its very own malting floor, an eight ton stainless steel mash tun, six wash backs and two pairs of stills, which actually produce enough heat not only to make their lovely peated whisky, but the waste heat from the stills heats the nearby pool! The label features a young lad with a freshly-swiped bra from the pool’s changing rooms legging it from one of the pool’s lifeguards.

Unfortunately the Bowmore batch 5 / 27 year has been replaced by batch 12 / 19 year on the TBWC website, however you can read what the chaps at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Salted butter, aromatic cedar, a whiff of floral malt developing beside classic coastal air.
  • Palate: Good cider, slightly vegetal at points, smoke meat and fried banana.
  • Finish: Slightly oily. Sea salt, lemon-flavoured boiled sweets.

So they didn’t discover any green capsicum, but can see some of the elements they found in there too.

What else did we sample in our evening tribute to Jim McEwan with whiskies bottled by “That Boutique-y Whisky Company”?

Clearly no stranger to Bowmore, here are a few sampled over the years…

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LMdW Artist #8 – Caol Ila 15 year 54.2%

We shifted fully into peat mode with Caol Ila… part of the new La Maison du Whisky Artist # 8 series.

Just as you would imagine from the swirl of smoke from Jérémie Lenoir’s photographs, this was no shy retiring whisky…

Caol Ila 15 year (2003/2018) Hogshead Cask #302465 54.2% (282 bottles)

  • Nose – Sweet peat, light hickory, bay leaves and sweet basil
  • Palate – Surprisingly soft and smooth yet no mistaking it was powerful too
  • Finish – An absolutely terrific finish – incredibly long and strong

The smoke remained… so pungent that I needed to change glasses before continuing with the rest of the series!

As for what it would set you back? SGD 388.

And what do the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say? No detailed tasting notes…. just a few thoughts.

Particularly suggestive, this absolutely beautiful version transports us in the proper sense of the word. Continuously traversed by swirls of smoke and a sea wind of exquisite sweetness, the aromatic palette is a succession of hectic sequences and moments imbued with tranquility and serenity.

—-From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 sans Sherry

Clearly we’ve had other flirtations with Caol Ila:

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LMdW Artist #8 – Bruichladdich 25 year 46.9%

We continued exploring the full range of the new La Maison du Whisky Artist # 8 with a trip to Islay with a whisky from Bruichladdich.

Now I am no stranger to Bruichladdich! In Singapore, the most memorable Bruichladdich sampled til date was at Whisky Live Singapore 2016’s Collectors Room – with the 15 year “Royal Wedding H.R.H. Prince Charles” (1965/1980) 52%!

Here in Mumbai we’ve had the most memorable Peat Progression Evenings and even explored their PC MP5 trio.

However I will admit none attained the venerable age of 25+ years.

So what did my teasing sniff and swish at Whisky Live Singapore 2018‘s VIP room reveal?

Bruichladdich 25 year (1993/2018) Hogshead Cask #1640 46.9%

  • Nose – Earthy, hay, organic… think wandering around a farm on a warm summer day, a bit of salty minerals, sweet grass, orchard fruits and even a bit herbal too
  • Palate – Sour, soft, very natural, more of that organic quality…. everything on the nose followed through on the palate in a nicely rounded way
  • Finish – Light pepper spice, some nuts and ends a bit sweet

This wasn’t an easy romping dram, it was one that I would have preferred to slow down and get to know a bit better. However with only a teasing sip, it was not enough to do justice.

So what do the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say?

  • Nose – Slim, fine. With a lot of freshness, the first lets us contemplate with rare acuity a field of barley. Rather salty, it is also imbued with medicinal tones (mustard, camphor). Its airiness is so beautiful that it raises enthusiasm. Gradually, vanilla and some yellow fruits (pear, apple) give replica to very fragrant plants (rosemary, savory). The aromatic palette is a marvel of balance.
  • Palate – Both delicate and lively. Not in rest, the attack in mouth also takes height. Very fond and juicy (pear William), it is also vanilla and lemony. The middle of the mouth makes us smell the heady perfumes of geranium and red fruits (strawberry, raspberry) that escape from a tank in full fermentation. The end of the mouth evokes the zucchini flower.
  • Finish – Long, serene. In the same fermentary register, it is milky (coconut, almond). Increasingly saline, it extends on notes of salicornia, pig ears and more autumn flavors of chestnut and liquorice. The retro-olfaction comes back on red fruits and more particularly raspberry. The empty glass is medicinal and peppered.

—-From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 sans Sherry

Just a few past explorations of Bruichladdich whiskies include:

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Smoky Night – Kilchoman Loch Gorm 46%

Last in our Whisky LadiesSmoky Night” evening was this Islay – Kilchoman’s full sherry expression – Loch Gorm.

What did we think?

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 46%

  • Nose – Mmmmmm…. lovely tobacco, sea salt, smoke, mixed with Christmas cheer, some orange twist, dried fruits and sweet spices
  • Palate – Yum! Soft and buttery, chocolate, peat rolling around with a clear sherry dry richness
  • Finish – Gorgeous peat

For many, this was proper peat and sweet dram – a full, robust and satisfying whisky.

More than anything else, this evening was a terrific reminder that tasting order and environment makes all the difference!

After the rather disappointing Bunnahabhain, this Loch Gorm was “Oh yeah!” The peat hit just the right note and the sweet was also quite welcome.

Whereas for the Bombay Malt and Cigar lads, we sampled this same whisky after a trio of unpeated sherry drams. And the one just before – the BenRiach – was particularly spectacular. So when we got to the Loch Gorm it was a bit of a shock to the palate.

And what do the Kilchoman folks have to say about Loch Gorm?

  • Nose – Orange peel, cloves, caramel and mixed spice with waves of fruit cake and citrus.
  • Palate – A beautiful balance of spicy richness, cooked fruits, chocolate with layers of brown sugar sweetness and earthy peat smoke
  • Finish – Mouth-filling peat smoke, lasting tropical sweetness, toffee and rich dried fruit.

The biggest distinction here being 100% oloroso sherry cask matured… As the Kilchoman folks put it:

It is common for distilleries to use a variety of sherry producers but for our consistent quality and character, it is vital that we source them all from just one bodega. We select a combination of sherry butts and hogsheads from Jose Miguel Martin that provides two separate styles of maturation.

These ex-oloroso sherry casks impart a combination of heavy sherry notes, spicy dark chocolate, rich fruits and burnt sugar. This balances beautifully with the Kilchoman peat smoke and citrus fruits found within our farm crafted spirit.

For us, the results worked!

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Night – Bunnahabhain Chuach-Mhona 50%

We continued our smokey explorations with Bunnahabhain…. typically known as the one Islay distillery that typically doesn’t use peat. Yet more and more you will find Bunnahabhain flirting with variations of peat.

Bunnahabhain Chuach-Mhona 50%

  • Nose – Shy yet familiar, a bit sharp and came across as immature, initially not so peaty, some spice, a bit of zing, honey, hay, sweet grass and then a bit of smoke and ash
  • Palate – Direct, burnt toast
  • Finish – Spice
  • Water – Much sweeter and brought out a pleasant cinnamon

To be honest, this was the most disappointing whisky of the bunch. It was surprising how there was both minimal peat and how young it seemed, missing so many elements we appreciate in a good dram.

And what do the Bunnahabhain folks have to say?

Gaelic for ‘peat stack’, this malt has strong influences of peat and sea salt. 

  • Colour – Pale gold
  • Nose – Crisp and lively sweet peat, with herbal hay, dry smoke and burning grass
  • Palate – Starting light, malty and sweet, developing into smoky white pepper and seaweed saltiness
  • Finish – Lingering dry smokiness with seaweed and spice

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Night – Kilchoman Machir Bay 46%

Next up in our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies was a familiar friend – Kilchoman’s Machir Bay.

While I may be on sampling opportunity No 5 (or is it 6) for this particular expression, it was the 1st time for the Whisky Ladies and in perfect keeping with our smokey theme.

Kilchoman Machir Bay 46%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – A bit musty to start, but then what a fabulous peat, buttery, creamy, sharp spice, cinnamon, vanilla, jasmine? some fresh fruits then a delightful citrus peel
  • Palate – Very smooth, loads of delicious spice! Well balanced, lightly salty, herbal, wood, pepper, cinnamon bark, nicely oily
  • Finish – Gorgeous, long, tingly, lightly bitter, with a nice ashy smoke

Did we enjoy it? Absolutely yes!

As for what the Kilchoman folks have to say about Machir Bay: 

  • Nose – Lemon zest, vanilla and distinct coastal influence give way to floral intensity, juicy peaches, pears, and wafts of rich spices
  • Palate – Bursts of tropical fruit and dried sultanas, warming smoke and waves of honey, malt, butterscotch and rich sweetness
  • Finish – Sherry-soaked fruit, cracked black pepper and sea salt. Long-lasting with layers of citrus sweetness and maritime peat smoke

In terms of the cask, it predominantly relies on ex-Bourbon with approx 20% ex-Sherry.

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Winter Nights – Glenglassaugh, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain

Delhi in winter has a smokey quality from the stubble in fields surrounding the city being burned to little roadside fires to keep warm.

While it has been years since I lived through a Delhi winter, I was reminded of those chilled evenings with smoke in the air during our recent Whisky Ladies evening which featured Smokey Whiskies!

What did we try?

So let’s talk a bit about peat with its PPM or Peaty “Phenol Parts Per Million”….

Once upon a time, peat was the norm to dry malted barley. Then enter this new fangled alternative called coal… or more precisely coke… made readily accessible by the 1960s via rail. Coke burns more evenly, more consistently and with less smoke than peat. The Lowlands and Speyside regions jumped on the unpeated bandwagon early.

Yet most of Islay kept to using peat. As do other distilleries – some craft both unpeated and peated variants – occasionally under different brand names.

Glenglassaugh, for example, have two versions of their port wood finish – the peated one we tried and one without peat.

Whereas Bunnahabhain from Islay, once known for eschewing peat,  has more recently been flirting more openly with peat. Today approx 25% of their whisky has varying degrees of peat.

Kilchoman, by contrast, has from the start kept peat as part of its consistent style, playing instead with the casks with a gradation from none to full sherry.

And PPM? It is measured at the point of the dried barley… typically using UV spectroscopy or High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). However where the PPM level starts is NOT where it finishes.

Throughout the whisky making process, phenols are lost. How much depends on a range of different factors from what is left behind in the draft at the end of mashing to how they are changed during fermentation with the type of still changing the character and intensity and most importantly how it is impacted during the second distillation.

So while Kilchoman may consistently START at 50 PPM, where it end up may differ significantly… Just check out what we found with the Port Charlotte 10 year MP5 series!

There are those that suggest that given PPM can bear such little relation to actual “smoke” strength, why not drop using PPM completely and instead define the peat as light, medium or heavily peated?

Want to know more? Don’t listen to me, check out an expert like Dave Broom on Whisky.com.

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Gordon and Macphail’s Caol Ila 33 year 52.8%

At Whisky Live Singapore 2018, there were a few choice Gordon & MacPhail whiskies available in the VIP section. It provided a great opportunity to sample fine whiskies – particularly aged drams one could ordinarily not afford.

We spotted this when we first perused what was available and knew we must try it. We were fortunate there were still a few drops left!

Caol Ila 33 year (1989/ 3 July 2018) Cask 181062 52.8% 216 bottles

  • Nose – Smoke and fire and yet with beautiful balance, nutty, salted toffee, smoked meats, light herbal sweet grass and tobacco
  • Palate – Buttery, apricot plum, pastry, remarkably well-balanced peat, vanilla
  • Finish – Long and smoky

It is such a treat to try something aged and beautifully peated. While it was only a small snifter, it was more than enough to know we were lucky to have such an opportunity.

And what would this set you back? While the 33 year was not on sale, the 34 year old was retailing for SGD 1,100. Yikes!

Other whiskies sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail booth, Whisky Live 2018:

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Whisky Live 2018 – Gordon and Macphail

At Whisky Live 2018 in Singapore, one booth I simply couldn’t miss was Gordon & Macphail – both on the main floor and the VIP room.

While I didn’t sample everything, I did manage to have a “speed date” with a few remarkable drams…

Gordon & MacPhail at Whisky Live 2018

While the Caol Ila was an absolute stunner, it was clearly well beyond my price range!

Of the balance, the one that both was in my price range and sufficiently different to prioritize for bringing its way back from Singapore to Mumbai was the Inchgower.

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Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2010/2016 Sherry Cask 46%

Over the years I’ve had some interesting experiences with Kilchoman. However the last bottle that was actually mine to keep (as opposed to helping others source) was the Coull Point which was my ‘daily dram’ of choice for as long as it lasted back in mid 2015!

So when Islay Storm  showed up as part of an Islay tasting flight at The Single Cask early 2017, with an unmistakable ‘stamp’ of Kilchoman, I vowed it was time to acquire another bottle for home.

Enter the Loch Gorm 100% sherry matured… sourced from the UK. Earlier experiences with Kilchoman’s peat and full sherry sweet were all cask strength with an Olorosso and Pedro Ximenez, so I looked forward to trying a ‘connoisseurs’ strength of 46%.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2010/2016) 46%

  • Nose – Lasang souchon tea, bandaids, antisceptic, one found fish? Then it started to settle down with some sweet cinnamon and maple syrup…
  • Palate – Very pronounced peat! And with the peat was sweet, and yet it was initially a bit unbalanced, some sweet smoky cinnamon, cloves, dry
  • Finish – Peat with ash

After the absolutely stunning BenRiach, this was quite the change. Certainly as a contrast, it succeeded. However as a whisky for the gents to relax, unwind and enjoy… not that evening.

So I took it home…. and added a few generous drops of water – wow! Transformed…

  • Nose – It became much fruitier, rich chocolate, mince pie, vanilla and even, dare I say it, marshmallows?
  • Palate – Now we have the balance! Much sweeter, fruitier yet lost none of the “oomph!” and character
  • Finish – Long, cinnamon sweet with an unmistakable curl of smoke… almost sacred ash like… with a chaser of spice.

I think it might be fun to revisit again with the Whisky Ladies as part of a Smokey Night… where the Loch Gorm will have some peaty Islay company!

Here is what the folks over at Kilchoman have to say:

Named after a famously peaty loch overlooked by the distillery, Loch Gorm is the only fully ex-sherry cask matured release in our range. Since it’s first launch in 2012 a new edition of Loch Gorm has been released every year, each with it’s unique balance of sherry influence and maturity. Bottlings are differentiated by distillation and bottling years printed on the label. Loch Gorm combines rich sherry fruits and spices with smouldering peat, cloves and lingering sweetness.

And for this specific bottle? The box has this to say:

  • Colour: Rich mahogany
  • Nose: Spicy and sweet with peat smoke and dark chocolate well integrated
  • Palate: Soft fruits, well rounded and full of character
  • Finish: Lingering, sweet and well balanced

Kilchoman whiskies sampled include:

Here are the whiskies explored in our Sherry Unusual evening:

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