“What the fuck!? I mean, it’s a fine whisky, I can tell that much, but smoke, petroleum? Burnt oil? I don’t want that in my glass” – that’s what my friend said to me when we first tasted a heavily peated, smoky whisky, the Johnnie Walker Double Black blend. And I just smiled and took another sip of that wonderful, smoky spirit. It was the first time I realised I love the peat, and ever since, I’ve put them in a special category and they simply can’t compare with anything else.
Being a special category, most of them come from a special island off the west coast of Scotland – Islay, and I wish to explore the core range of all of the distilleries there. Hopefully visit that beautiful island one day.
I`ve managed to taste the Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, all very heavy and rich, but what I think is a good introduction into Islay whisky is the standard 12 YO expression from the Bowmore Distillery.
You will breathe in the warm smoke of a bonfire that has just been put out. There are only some hints of that peaty dirtiness, rubber you can found for instance, in the Laphroaig. The mellow smoke is intertwined with a touch of citrus, perhaps lemon candies and sweet honey as the time passes and oxidation bring out a bouqet of underlying flavours. After adding just a small drop of water, some vanilla cream appeared. On the palate it is pretty straightforward – peat, the characteristic heather honey, a bit malty, with dashes of salt and iodine, all reminiscent of a salty sea breeze. Smoke appears again at the very end, to lead you into a dry, yet refreshing herbal finish.
What I liked most about Bowmore 12 is the gentle smokiness which is not as assertive as with expressions of its neighbouring distilleries. The peat is here, but it will not overwhelm you, but keep you interested to keep looking what else is in there. And then you find some sweet flavours and it turns out the whisky is very nicely balanced and straightforward, and not too complex. This might be a good thing, as it might spark some interest in one`s interest for Islay style of peated whisky and make him explore further, or turn you away, as it did my friend from the beginning of this post.
My next post is probably again gonna be about Islay whisky. After all, it is Christmass time, so why not treat myself, right?
Stay in good health,
Write you soon