Bowmore Travel Trilogy – 17 year White Sands 43%

Last in our Bowmore travel trilogy was the 17 year “White Sands.”

I’d picked this bottle up in Singapore duty free back when it was 1st launched. It was one of my “speed date” sample that lead to a clear “buy” decision! And since then I’ve been patiently waiting to open the bottle with our Whisky Ladies.

Bowmore 17 year White Sands 43%

  • Nose – Rich vanilla, citrus orange, honey almonds, very floral, raspberry treacle, light peat smoke, chocolate coffee then cotton candy
  • Palate – Spices, light creamy toffee, cloves, quite a delicious curl of peat, nice and chewy without being heavy, smooth as silk
  • Finish – A long lingering sweet spice with a bitter cinnamon tail

And what did the Whisky Ladies really think?? We LOVED it!

We found it was one of those whiskies that says – “Pull up a nice comfy chair, curl up and pay attention to me. Trust me, you absolutely will not regret!”

There is something quite sophisticated about this whisky. One mentioned ballgowns and tuxedos about to take a twirl on the dance floor…. that spins into a seduction!

For others it was just nice to settle down with an amiable whisky with multiple dimensions. The nose especially has such a lovely range of aromas, it is delicious to sip and savour, with a surprisingly long finish. In short – ticks the right boxes!

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

“Inspired by Islay’s pristine white beaches.”

Islay’s coast line boasts seven miles of pristine white beaches and has been the inspiration for White Sands. Matured for seventeen long years, this is Bowmore Master Distiller’s personal favourite. Matured in the finest ex Bourbon casks, the treacle toffee and ripe exotic fruits bound together by warm peat smoke.

  • Nose: Light peat smoke, rich treacle toffee and ripe exotic fruits
  • Taste: Creamy toffee and malty sweetness, together with a delicious warm smokiness
  • Finish: The incredibly smooth, warm and comforting finish

In this case, we would agree with the tasting notes… and of the three whiskies, there was zero doubt which was our favourite! In terms of the three, Black Rock is the most readily available. While not a bad whisky, it unfortunately is outclassed by the other two. Gold Reef may be slightly more challenging to find. And White Sands? Excellent value for a beautifully balanced whisky with enough character to keep you well engaged! It is certainly one to recommend to those who enjoy their whisky with a bit of smoky sweetness.

So while it was long after the initial launch, it was still fun to explore the Bowmore ‘travel trilogy‘:

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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:

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Whisky Ladies with Bowmore Black Rock 40%

The Whisky Ladies ‘contributors choice session‘ followed the GlenDronach with one of master blender Rachel Barrie‘s Bowmore travel trilogy.

This whisky was acquired some time ago by one of our whisky ladies who shared how much she enjoys Bowmore’s approach to bringing together peat and sherry sweet to create a consistent Islay treat.

Black Rock specifically is named for the Black Rock of Islay that can be seen from the Bowmore distillery rising out of Loch Indaal.


What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – Initially sour curd, warm and wintry, intense and then closed, light peat, the strong sour cherry, raisins spice toasted nuts
  • Palate – Well… clearly into 40% territory here… however once we got past the ‘watered down’ dimension enjoyed the smoky, cherry and other tight dried berries, sweet dry spices
  • Finish – Much fainter than expected – just a touch of sweetness, smoke and spice

In our glass comparison, the Norlan was able to pull out more from the Bowmore – giving it a richer, sweeter quality. Whereas the Glencairn exposed more of the ‘watered down’ 40% dimension.

And what do the folks over at Bowmore have to say?

  • Breathe In: smoke infused with raisins, pepper, warm cocoa beans and burnt orange
  • Sip: rich sherry and peat smoke followed by blackcurrant treacle toffee and cinnamon spice
  • Savour: beautifully balanced peat smoke and sea salt

Whisky ladies experimental evening also featured:

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Bowmore 21 year 51.5%

Bowmore is one of those distilleries our merry malt group has barely scratched the surface exploring. Naturally, we skipped past all the entry level Bowmore’s and went straight for the mighty 21 year!

Bowmore 21 year 51.5% (1988)

  • Colour – A distinctive ruby red – port cask?
  • Nose – Clear blue cheese or smoke cheese, a medicinal element
  • Taste – Very smooth, enveloped in smokiness, hint of ash and spiciness… a sense of age and richness
  • Finish – Long, strong,  smoky swirls
  • With water – While becomes much more bitter, paradoxically smoother too

As usual, we tasted blind and were delighted to learn we were spot on about the whisky being matured in Port Wood casks. This version of the Bowmore 21 was released in 2009 with 7,200 bottles.

While it had higher alcohol content than initially apparent, our initial reaction a reasonably enjoyable dram to sip and savour when in the mood for something of this character.

Bowmore 21 year


What caught me completely by surprise later is the current price tag… hovering around $400 – 550?

Now… I don’t know about you, but that’s getting into the steep territory and a price point where I demand something pretty exceptional. Though this is certainly a worthy dram, am not convinced it is worth such a price tag.

However it certainly wouldn’t dissuade me from trying more Bowmores… far from it. In fact… I have a Bowmore Laimrig 15 year awaiting its turn to be sniffed, sipped and considered.

In time, it will be interesting to see what Rachel Barrie, Master Blender for Morrison Bowmore has up her sleeve (nose?). “Miss Whisky” has an interesting feature on Ms Barrie who suggests those whisky drinkers who

“love savoury saltiness and smoky barbequed food (with a balanced sweetness), then Bowmore single Islay malt is for you.”

Would the 21 year fit this description? Yup… it would indeed.

The Bowmore was originally blind tasted in April 2014 along with:

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