Islay Trio – Bowmore Gold Reef 43%

After being surprised by the Bunnahabhain Eirigh na Greine, our Islay trio continued with another dram that was a variation on the distillery style.

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.

With the reveal, I simply could not believe this was the same Bowmore Gold Reef the Whisky Ladies tried a just a few months ago in April 2017. The experience was entirely different.

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?

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Islay revisit – Bunnahabhain, Bowmore + Ardbeg

Our original Mumbai based whisky tasting club has an unwritten rule – no repeats. We also taste blind so as not to be influenced by brand or pre-conceived notions about a particular whisky or distillery.

Yet after so many years, our obsession with exploring new territories presents a challenge to find something ‘new.’

So why not have an evening that deliberately sets us up to sample whiskies we’ve had (or similar to ones we’ve tried), but each with a twist… being expressions that aren’t necessarily representative of a distillery ‘house style’ – if such a thing even exists anymore!

We also observed that our impressions bore little relationship to official distillery tasting notes… Past experiments have helped provide insight into possible reasons with a range of factors including the whisky temperature, ambient aromas and environment, tasting order which can influence perceptions of the whisky to follow,  conversation and company, and frankly just the mood of the taster!!

What did our host “trick” us with?

Click on the links above to read our tasting notes, comparing with previous experiences and distillery official tasting notes…

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Bowmore Travel Trilogy – Gold Reef 43%

Next up in our Bowmore travel trilogy was another NAS – Gold Reef.

This particular bottle was acquired on my partner‘s trip to Beirut, Lebanon on behalf of our host – a fellow theatre actor. Since last year we have impatiently waited for an opportunity to bring our trilogy together…

And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Bowmore Gold Reef 43%

  • Nose – Treacle, apple, summery caramel, toasted coconut, marzipan, with tropical fruits. As it opened, particularly after sipping, a delicious maple syrup joined some 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 after a few more sips settles into a bitter finish

We found it very inviting on the nose, the palate was such a contrast – in a good way. The finish remains.

Here is what the Bowmore folks have to say about this whisky:

“Inspired By The Sun’s Reflection On Islay’s Coral Seabed.”

Further out to sea and deep beneath the waves lies Gold Reef. Named for the way the glow of the sun’s rays reflect off the coral seabed, this same old catches the eye inside every bottle of Gold Reef. Predominately matured in 1st fill ex-bourbon casks, it rewards with notes of smooth vanilla, citrus fruits and sea salt.

  • 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

Not so sure about the kiwi fruit or olive oil but certainly the balance is more or less what we found!

Our Bowmore ‘travel trilogy‘ evening included:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Bowmore Travel Trilogy – Black Rock, Gold Reef, White Sands

As Whisky Ladies, we enjoy celebrating the contributions of whisky women to the industry.

Rachel Barrie has a career that started with the Glenmorangie team, gaining experience to become a whisky creator and master blender for The Glenmorangie, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Moet Hennessy (LVMH) before joining Morrison Bowmore Distillers, Beam Suntory in 2011. As Master Blender, she described “Islay is my escape. There’s part of me that’s a free spirit and very elemental.”

As Whisky Ladies, we thought it rather apt to have a session featuring whiskies where a professional Whisky woman was involved!

So we set about early 2016 to collectively acquire a ‘travel trilogy’ from Bowmore with:

For once, it was surprisingly easy to buy… the trick turned out to be finding an evening when all three ladies who purchased the bottles were `free on the same night!

This finally happened in April 2017… by which time Rachel Barrie had changed jobs and joined BenRiach and Glendronach Distillery Company as Whisky Maker.

Didn’t matter to us – we toasted her in spirit anyways!

Other Bowmore‘s tasted over the years include:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: