Time for a return trip to Tim’s Dusty (Bowmore) Corner, where I spend my own cash on Bowmore cheap auction bottles of the type I recommend in our famous Whisky Auction Updates to see if I know what I’m talking about!

Last time out was a rather frustrating experience, as what should have been a delightful bargain Bowmore 1990 was somewhat spoiled by being corked, undrinkable and fit only to be poured down the sink.  Let’s try another of the trio of Bowmores I picked up in June and see if this one can make up for it.


Today’s Bowmore is from a later vintage – 1996 – by which time the distillery was truly back on track after the decidedly sub-par 1980s vintages, a distressingly high proportion of which taste like they’ve been finished in casks that previously held Chanel No. 5.

Contrastingly, the mid to late 1990s were a really great time for Bowmore.  The most famous vintages are probably the 1997s and 1998s bottled by the likes of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, but all the 1996s I’ve tried before have been between good and great, and preceded the excellent early batches of Bowmore Tempest.

Enough jibber-jabber, then – what’s it like?


Bowmore 1996


Bowmore 1996 9yo (Bot. 2005), 53.4%, Exclusive Malts, £42.50 (hammer price)

Nose: Fresh, initially farmy, some ripe pears and a youthful cereally note. The fruit becomes even riper and more exotic, with hints of mango and fresh pineapple. There’s a mandarin citrus note as well. Time in the glass allows faint notes of bandages, soot and apricot to emerge.


Palate: Medium-full, a little hot and sharp at full strength – really showing its youth.  Much more phenolic on the palate than the nose, with strong smoke and sooty flavours and hot alcohol peppery spice somewhat overpowering the fruit, but there’s a nice hint of honey lurking.  I think it’ll improve with a bit of time to sit in the glass, and let’s try some water too…


With Water: A conflict between toned-down volatility and newly-released syrupy sweetness.  Needs time, but after 10 minutes everything has calmed down a bit and the fruit makes a welcome reappearance.  Much better.


Finish: Long, hot and spicy at full strength. Sweeter and more mouth-coating after dilution but still quite phenolic.


Comment: A vibrant dram that needs patience and a drop of water to show its best side.  One for the ‘austere’ fans. The light colour and the lack of in-yer-face vanilla suggests a refill bourbon cask, allowing the untamed phenols of the youthful distillate to express themselves unhindered. This is a decent dram with a drop of water, but I have a feeling that another ten (or twenty) years in the cask and it could have been something really special.  

That said, these young cask strength whiskies are frequently rather brusque and nervy when opened and many of them improve greatly with a little headspace in the bottle and time to settle. I’m looking forward to trying this again when it’s calmed down.

That’s it for this time, folks! I’ll have the final Bowmore in our budget Trilogy next time out…