E-pistle 2009/35 – Black, White & Gold Bowmores

By Mark Gillespie, USA

In July of 2008, I was tasting the White Bowmore with Andrew Rankin, the chief blender for Morrison Bowmore. During the tasting, he mentioned that there would be a third release in what Bowmore was referring to as the Trilogy Series sometime in 2009… without giving any details. That third release turned out to be the Gold Bowmore.

A bit of history here… Historians will recall the original Black Bowmore releases between 1993 and 1995s. The spirit was some of the first produced in 1964 after the Morrison family bought Bowmore and revamped the distillery, and was aged in black walnut Oloroso sherry casks. What we didn’t know at the time was that Bowmore still had casks of that same spirit ageing in Warehouse #1 at the distillery.

In 2007, Bowmore released several casks of that 42-year-old spirit under the Black Bowmore label, with just 827 bottles produced, and a suggested price of $4,500 (US). The following year, the White Bowmore was released – same spirit, but aged instead in ex-bourbon casks with a lighter color and flavor. Those casks yielded 732 bottles of 43 year-old whisky at a suggested price of $6,000. That left just four casks of the 1964 spirit: three ex-bourbon and one ex-sherry cask.  Andrew Rankin and the Bowmore team vatted them together to create 701 bottles of 44-year-old Gold Bowmore, with a price tag of $6,250. That brings us to the equation mentioned above: 3+1=98; three barrels of ex-bourbon White Bowmore plus one barrel of ex-sherry Black Bowmore equals 98 – the highest score I have ever given a whisky.

Nosing the Gold Bowmore reveals the fruitiness often found in older Bowmores.
For some reason, the peat tends to fade in Bowmores after 20 years or so in cask, and notes of tropical fruits take over. In this case, I found notes of passion fruit, mango, and pineapple, along with subtle hints of pomegranate and peaches and not a hint of oak or peat. The taste starts off with a grapefruit-like tartness that fills the mouth, then fades to reveal the passion fruit and mango notes from the nose. The mouth tingles with a slight mintiness and there’s a hint of hazelnut in the back of the throat. The citrussy sweetness sticks to the tip of the tongue and lingers, while the rest of the finish has a white wine dryness.

This is an amazingly smooth and complex dram, and to be honest, I expected nothing less.
The Black and White Bowmores had each received among the highest scores I’ve given in the past, and putting them together created a whisky that will be sought after for years to come.  (42.4% ABV)

BLACK BOWMORE TASTING NOTES (Tasted February 2008, 40.5% ABV)
Nose: Mangoes and other tropical fruits, dusty and musty like the aroma of a warehouse, with an understated brininess.
Taste: An explosion of fruits that becomes tart on the top of the tongue with lingering citrus notes.
At 40.5% ABV, no water is needed for this dram.
Finish: Sweet and clean.

Nose: Mango and pomegranate notes, vanilla, and a hint of orange peel and lemon.
Taste: Light and fruity with ripe mango, banana, and passion fruit notes.
A slight hint of figs underneath. Full of life, even after 43 years in cask.
Finish: Crisp and clean.