Bowmore “Enigma” 12 year old

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Score: 94/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Price: $80-$90 (Aus)

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. Bowmore make no secret of the fact that its whisky is usually intended to have two main characteristics. The first characteristic is the smell and taste of the salty sea which is said to be infused into the spirit as the oak barrels sit maturing by the bashing waves of the Atlantic ocean. The second characteristic, and by far the most difficult to achieve in my view, is a balance that showcases all the components of this classic coastal Scotch working in synchronization without any particular component dominating – the peat, barley, alcohol, oak, and salty sea must work together to create a flavour profile that is unmistakably Bowmore at first whiff and first taste. Bowmore has produced many expressions and some hit the mark while others, at least in my opinion, do not. When making this Bowmore Enigma I think the folks at Bowmore have come incredibly close to striking the elusive bulls-eye for that highly sought-after “balance” for which Bowmore prides itself. The Enigma emits the taste of the sea with integrated flavours that are so impeccably balanced that the whisky itself is dangerously “more-ish” and makes me want to throw away the cork and melt into a Chesterfield with a cigar lit and puff away into the early hours with good company a remote control firmly affixed to my hand.

Bowmore 12 year old “Enigma” is a single malt Scotch whisky with a higher proportion of sherry matured whisky than the standard Bowmore 12 year old. This makes the Bowmore Enigma a richer, sweeter and more complex dram than the standard Bowmore 12 year old bottling. This richness, sweetness and complexity also seems to play an integral part in counteracting the peat and sea salt more successfully than in the standard Bowmore 12 year old bottling – amazing what a bit more sherry influenced whisky can do!

The bouquet offers soft vanillas and layers of honey that sit behind the soft wafts of peat that intermingle with chocolate fudge, caramel and the most curious (and mouthwatering) aroma of hoisin sauce and Peking duck. On the palate the sherry wood becomes more noticeable and it wrestles with the peat and brine that immediately hits the taste buds – sherry, dried cranberries, dark chocolate and mild vanillas counteract the peat and brine, through which shines moderating rays of lemon zest, mandarin peel, honey and fresh persimmon that soften the burn of spices. The finish offers sea salt and an intensifying peaty smokiness that leaves the aftertaste of a salty seaweed laden Japanese miso with something sweet, red, sticky and delicious beaming through.

Bowmore Enigma is now in my liquor cabinet as my “go to” dram when I want an easy drinking Islay malt with great balance – a beautiful whisky. At its price, it is a Travel Retail whisky I would not hesitate buying when rushing through an international terminal or arriving home after a long flight.

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