(Certainly the price tag made it stand out against the regular Bowmore Legend, 12yo, and 17yo).
Although it is a few years old now, the 4th edition of Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion gave it the thumbs up, a positive description, and a good score.
In Jim Murray's new book, the 2004 Whisky Bible, he slams the Darkest and gives it one of the worst scores in the whole book.
Has the Darkest changed in character very recently, or is Jim's palate simply not in sync with this malt? He describes it as a "young" whisky, but I thought it came from sherry casks in their mid-teens?
Can anybody provide more info?
Darkest used to be my favorite Bowmore. I found it to be better than Bowmore 17yo and Lagavulin 16yo at the time, better than Ardbeg TEN and 17yo as well, but the last bottle I got was terrible, just terrible. It had a horrible perfumey overtone. The first dram from the bottle seemed fine but with that little bit of airing out it got bad and went from bad to worse. By the end of the bottle it reminded me a lot of Zwack Unicum Bitters, a Hungarian herbal liqueur. Still made decent marinade for ribs but expensive marinade.
The Malt Madness site also gives it a bad score, 65/100 or thereabouts which I think is generous if they got a bottle from the same batch I did ($#!^ list for sure). If Jim got a bottle from that batch as well then I can see why he rates it where he does. I think MJ tasted it long ago from the first batch which was excellent.
At present I still like the 12yo and 17yo Bowmores but I'm afraid to buy a new bottle in case it is bad so I just get pub drams when I have a chance. I've heard good things about the current bottlings but I'm still alittle worried about being stuck with 750mL of swill. I'm also tending toward bottlings 46% ABV and higher now which crosses out many Bowmore offerings on the list, including Darkest.
I can't blame anyone for giving up on the brand or distillery if they got stuck with a bad bottle. And enough people have reported bad Bowmores. There is no excuse for bad quality control.
They are both semi-cask strength and taste very good even without adding water. What I also like about them is that the perfumery is almost gone.
The cask finish with port and claret suits them good.
Tasted a 17yo for a couple of weeks ago - and it was like tasting a perfurm boutique.
The 17 is mild at best --some would call it weak.
The darkest I tought was a gimmick which did not outlast a positive shock value of sorts. Its just different, not inherently better; the sherry addition is thin at best and the islay flavour was thinner yet...
The Bowmore Cask strength really let me down: try tasting it side by side with the Laphroiag cask strength for example. I tried that, put them each in a blue cobalt tasting glass: and Bam! What a nose on the Laphroig, viscous vanilla, mixed with potent smokiness. This was truly outstanding moment. The Bowmore? It was insipid in comparaison. Hard to do with a cask strength bottling, but it was forgetable. I will use it for bananes flambees.
No suggestion of the dreaded excessivly perfume odor described by others, although there are fragrant notes of some burning peats.
The excessively perfurmey Bowmores are still a mystery to me as I have been fortunate in having never encountered a bottle.
Are the perfurmey bottles still being sold?
My favourite has always been the 17 year old. The darkest has never done anything for me. The bottle I had several years ago tasted very superficial (caramel?) to me and had trouble opening up.
By the way, my thoughts are that the newer 17 yo contains less sherry matured whisky now because of the success of the darkest, so it has shifted towards say a less heavy and more flowery dram.
printed picture of small single sailing vessel one man also picture of the distillery and sea gulfs.
Might have to get Laga 16 and Ardbeg 17 for another HTH of these malts.
The Bowmore 12 was exceptionally balanced, but the sweetness & richness of the Laphroaig 15 did it for me.
I'm still wading through a bottle of Bowmore Darkest, which is seriously flawed. It tastes like a young Bowmore mixed in a blend of turpentine & cordial.
I checked MJ's rating in the 4th edition of the Companion and he rated it a massive 91 and of course we all know that most of the Bowmore ratings in the 5th edition we dropped "due to lack of space".
Lacking a MJ rating I turned to Jim Murray's 2004 Whisky Bible (as others on this thread have done) and keeping in mind that they use a different system to rate their whiskies I saw JM gave the Bowmore darkest a 69 with the following comment "Raw and slightly wild. I adore youth in a whisky but this is just not my scene at all".
Like the Macallan I think Bowmore has fallen prey to it's success and has tried to increase output at the expense of quality. I take this view since neither the Macallan 12 nor the Bowmore 12 are the malts they used to be, when a standard "flag bearer" malt of a distillery suffers a drop in quality you have to start asking questions about the whole line up.
One other possible explanation for the change in the malt is that the 12 year olds from both distilleries had a high percentage of older malts in them which "beefed" up the malt. Now that these older malts are not available in such quantities the 12 year olds (and the Darkest) are suffering.
The harsh, spirity elements seem to have diminished, and the flavour profile did not seem as obviously out of balance compared to my initial reaction six months ago.
Still not the most sensational dram, but I guess I just view it now as an alternative expression of Bowmore. However, I still feel the flavours on the palate are not integral with the malt. Almost like they've been added afterwards, a bit like cordial.
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