Monday 31 August 2020

Tasted #486 - 487: 1980s Bowmore showdown - 15yo vs 30yo

You wouldn't know it by reading through my "Tasted" posts (as I'm about 400 posts behind...), but I'm a huge Bowmore fan, and have been for a while now. Not just because of the few crazy-rare and delicious examples I've been lucky enough to try (like this), but in general, it's a distillery whose character I (usually) love. IBs mostly, but I don't mind a lot of the OBs either.

I recently had these two bottles open at the same time, and felt they warranted a post. One, an older bottling of Bowmore 15yo Mariner (bottled c.2002), the other, an IB 30yo single cask bottled by Single Cask Nation. On the surface then, they might seem quite different:
  • IB vs OB
  • 30yo vs 15yo
  • Single cask vs vatting
  • Natural colour vs (likely) coloured
  • Bottled 2019 vs bottled c.2002.
...but if you work back from the ages, you realise both are late 1980s spirit - the 30yo distilled in 1989, the 15yo likely around 1987 (both are also within 1.1% ABV of each other). Given the late 1980s was a pretty notorious area for Bowmore (when the spirit was often described as overly perfumed or soapy), I couldn't resist trying them side-by-side.

Bowmore "Mariner" 15yo bottled c.2002 (43% ABV, 15yo, OB, Islay, Scotland)
Colour: Copper-brown gold.

Nose: Musty, earthy, with perfumed peat smoke. Noticeable notes of nutty sherry, and some oak / cigar boxes after some time.

Palate: Follows the nose, with continuing subtle (yet perfumed) peat smoke, then a good whack of lavender, spice, and pot pourri. Reasonably full-bodied for 43%, but you're not going to mistake it for a cask-strength banger. 

Finish: Oak with some residual lavender spice. Medium in length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. Definitely showing some of those perfume notes evident on many Bowmores of the era, but with some other notes too, still an enjoyable dram.

Bowmore 1989 Single Cask ex-Bourbon 30yo bottled by Single Cask Nation (44.1% ABV, 30yo, IB single cask, Islay, Scotland)
Colour: Golden amber-yellow.

Nose: It bursts with tropical pineapple, mango and papaya, and even a little passionfruit (now we're talking!) with less obvious floral and perfume notes. With time there comes lavender (subtle), vanilla and a little rancio. Interestingly, after the bottle was less than half full for a few months, the tropical notes seemed to step back a bit, and the perfume / floral notes came to the fore.

Palate: More perfume and less fruit than the nose, but still with noticeable fruit - mango, guava, lime and banana, followed by a little pot pouri. A little lemon, bubblegum, lavender and some oak round things out.

Finish: Floral, with hints of lavender again, herbal lozenges, and slight oak at the very end. Medium to long in length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. This won't be everyone's cup of tea (indeed, it wasn't), but I dug it, quite a bit. Especially those early-stage tropical notes on the nose. Yum.


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