Review: Bowmore 15 Years Old Darkest

Category: Islay single malt scotch whisky

Origin: Bowmore Distillery

Bottling: Beam/Suntory

ABV: 43% ABV,

Cost: £54.34 from Master of Malt

Score: 85/100

bowmore-darkest-15-year-old-whisky

What they say:

15 Years Old ‘Darkest’
15 Years Old | 43% abv | Rich raisins and gentle smoke lead the way to a delicious chocolaty centre.

The Darkest Distinction
Matured in an inspired combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, it’s the final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks that gives Bowmore 15 Years Old ‘Darkest’, one of the most beautifully balanced Bowmores, the rich, deep colour reflected in its name, and its warming finish.

Tasting Notes
On the eye treacle dark amber.

Breathe in delicious dark chocolate, sun-dried fruits and a tell-tale wisp of Islay smoke.

Sip wonderful cedar wood and rich treacle toffee.

Savour the robust and complex finish with a hint of sherry tannin.

What I say:

Sampled during Water of Life Society (WoLS) meeting 27/02/2014 – Whisky and Cheese Pairing paired with

Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, pale-yellow-to-off-white (unless artificially coloured), sometimes “sharp” (i.e., acidic)-tasting, natural cheese. Originating in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Smoke-curing is typically done in one of two ways: cold-smoking and hot-smoking. The cold-smoking method (which can take up to a month, depending on the food) smokes the food at between 20° to 30° C. Hot-smoking partially or completely cooks the food by treating it at temperatures ranging from 40° to 90° C. Another method of “curing” used in less expensive cheeses is to use artificial smoke flavoring to give the cheese a smoky flavoring and food coloring to give the outside the appearance of having been smoked in the more traditional manner.

In this combination Richard had specifically picked out a peated Islay whisky and a smoky oak smoked cheddar cheese to illustrate beautifully how whisky can be very peaty but without being smoky. Due to its climate Islay peat is unusually high in phenolic compounds and is produced from a mixture of the local fauna plus a liberal dash of seaweed and salt spray compacted over 1,000s of years. Usually the peat burns with an oily smoke which it imparts into the barley when used for drying the malt. Peaty influences however can range from earthy (as here) through smouldering  heather & bracken to outright smoke. The cheddar cheese has been cured using oak chip smoking and develops a very smoky flavour which is in stark contrast but still complimentary to the earthy peat flavour in the whisky.

Colour:

Dark, sherried ruby amber gold/old amontillado (16/20), large droplets with thick legs

Nose:

Earthy peat, polished oak wood and new paint, sherry, leather, chocolate, toffee, briny sea spray

Taste:

Earthen and only slightly smoky peat, brown/demerara sugar, leathery tannins, prunes and a liberal sprinkling of smoked sea salt on rich dark chocolate

Finish:

Long with rich juicy fruits and drying leather tannins

Overall:

Quite an approachable Islay dram. A good balance is struck between the sherry and peat smoke influence making it nice and subdued and subtle. Rewards spending a little time with this one