Welcome back to Tim’s Dusty Corner, in which I put my money where my mouth is and crack open some of the cheap auction buys I recommend in our Whisky Auction Update!  Recently I had the good fortune to scoop up three 1990s Bowmores, all under £100 each. We’ll start with this Bowmore 1990 bottled in 2001 at 43% by Ian MacLeod & Co. under their Chieftain’s Choice label.  

Now, this was a bit of a punt: Bowmore distilled between the early ’80s to early ’90s is a risky business due to some awful perfumey, lavender notes in much of their spirit from that era, so this may be money down the drain.

And yet…  once Bowmore got back on track in the early 1990s the perfuminess disappeared and there were some spectacular results – one of my favourite Bowmores ever is a monstrous tropical fruitbomb distilled in 1993

The other plus here is the bottlers: Ian MacLeod Distillers are the owners of Glengoyne and Tamdhu, and they’ve bottled some stunning Springbanks and Broras for their Chieftain’s Choice and Dun Bheagan ranges (not to mention some very nice Ardbeg, Caol Ila and Clynelish). They know a good cask, put it that way.

Anyway, I kept an eye on this bottle and swooped in near the end of the auction. The hammer price was £40, let’s see if that was a good punt or not…


Bowmore 1990

Bowmore 1990 11yo Bourbon Barrel, 43%, 70cl £40 (ex-commission)

Nose: No obvious perfume or dried lavender notes, anyway.  There’s a fair bit of oaky vanilla as one would expect from a barrel, then sooty, ashy phenols and in the background there’s tangerine peel and melon, which are some of my key indicators for Bowmore in blind tastings.  Bandagey notes, marmalade, germolene and some youthful wet straw aromas emerge with time in the glass as the vanilla dissipates. So far, so good…


Palate: Medium-full weight, good mouthfeel.  A few wet wool notes initially, some off notes of wet newspapers, then the fruit comes through – melon and slightly sour oranges, leading into restrained syrup and tinned peach / fruit salad flavours. Gets much fruitier with time in the glass, but the wet paper note is still going in the background… this is worrying.


Finish: The tinned fruit salad syrup fades slowly and the ashy phenols return… but so does the off-note of wet cardboard, getting stronger


Comment: Wet paper or cardboard notes in whisky can often be attributed to the over-influence of oak, but even from a barrel that seems unlikely for an 11yo whisky…  FFS, this whisky is f@cking *corked*!

Yes, it can happen to whisky too so it’s worth telling you about it to raise awareness – It’s happened to me before (once with the star bottle of an Irish whiskey tasting I was presenting, which was rather awkward).

I can still taste it an hour later, so there’s no doubt now and my palate is knackered for the day!!

What’s even worse is that without the wet cardboard I think there was a very nice whisky in there, so if I see it again I’ll have to buy it. Bah!! Well, at least I have two more Bowmore to try soon…

Stay Tuned, Good Luck and Happy Hunting!