Origin: Islay, Scotland
Price: $79.99 (Aus), £36.95 (UK)
Bowmore has sat on the shore of the Loch Indaal on the Isle of Islay since 1779, and it is at this idyllic spot on the “Jewell of the Hebrides” that Bowmore has been plying its trade for about 235 years. One of its newest expressions is the Bowmore Small Batch, a No Age Statement whisky that is matured in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks. The idea, at least on paper, is to draw out vanillas, spices and some bourbon inspired flavours from the first fill cask (which has held whisky for the very first time, so its has lots of flavour to give the whisky) and combine with some softer flavours from the second fill cask (because this cask has been used already and therefore has less flavour to give the whisky the second time it is filled). Bowmore bring together whisky matured in both first and second fill ex-bourbon casks and marry them together to create the Bowmore Small Batch.
No Age Statement whiskies are often over-complicated by people who work in the industry. These whiskies do not disclose the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle, and therefore consumers do not know how many years the youngest whisky in the bottle spent maturing in casks. There may be many reasons for producing No Age Statement whiskies, but the most obvious reason is that the producer does not want consumers to know the age of the youngest whisky in a particular bottling – it may be 4 years old, 10 years old or 20 years old. The concern for producers, and rightly so in my opinion, is that people put too much stock into age statements and many assume that a whisky does get better with age. This is not always the case, and I have enjoyed very young whiskies while at the same time I have been very disappointed by single malts aged for 25, 30 or even 40 years. No Age Statements are not always about “hiding” information from consumers, but they can also be about protecting a brand by making sure consumers do not judge a whisky by its age statement only. Age statements are a delicate topic, but in my experience the reputable producers tend to produce No Age Statement whiskies that uphold the hard earned reputation of their brand – take Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Glenmorangie Signet or one of the best Ardbeg’s you could lay your hands on in the Corryvreckan. Age statements may be too heavily relied upon and therefore a whisky with a small number on its bottle (“4 years old”, for example) may be unfairly overlooked in favour of an older whisky. Sometimes a consumer does want to know how long their particular pride and joy for that month spent laying in a cask, for that romantic moment of awe you get when sipping on an old whisky or maybe just for transparency and to know what their hard earned money buys them. Other times, a No Age Statement whisky may do just fine when all that matters is how the whisky tastes. Those times might just call for the Bowmore Small Batch.
The bouquet is fresh, light and crisp with notes of citrus accompanying soft waves of peat, an ocean breeze, caramel, pot pouri, scented candle, honey, Ferrero rocher, sour gummy bears, sour green apple, and very mild hints of vanilla with plenty of honey. On the palate the whisky is soft and slightly oily with an enjoyable mouth-feel, offering notes of vanilla, raisin, peat, damp wood with wood spice, lime and sea salt, with a more fresh vegetal cut grass melding with the peat from mid-palate and into the finish. On the finish the peat and sea salt fade, though not entirely, remaining beneath fresh watery vegetal notes and hints of vanilla, bourbon, lime in cola and honey.
Overall, Bowmore Small Batch is a very enjoyable single malt whisky that, despite erring on the young side, is a refreshing and relatively complex dram. It is a great value whisky that is clean, fresh, smooth, relatively light and easy drinking, and particularly drinkable on ice. At its price, I have no complaints though I still prefer the Bowmore Enigma 12 year old and Bowmore 18 year old for their added complexity, depth, richness and age.