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Bowmore 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Review: Bowmore 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky  84/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 19, 2011

I was fortunate enough to meet Morrison Bowmore’s, Regional Manager for North America, Jamie MacKenzie at the Edmonton Whisky Festival this past winter. He asked me to reach out to him when I was ready to review some of the Bowmore Whiskies on my website, and I did so recently. I was delighted to receive an email shortly thereafter from Dave Gordon, the Regional Manager of Shiralli Agencies who is the local importer and distributor of Morrison Bowmore Products. He arranged for me to receive a small gift pack which included three 200 ml bottles of the Bowmore 12, the Bowmore 15 Darkest, and the Bowmore 18 Year Old Single Malt Whiskies. These three bottles form the heart of the Bowmore core range.

My first review of this range is the Bowmore 12 Year old Single Malt Whisky.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

To the right is a nice bottle shot (J peg) of the 750 ml bottle presentation. As you can see the bottle is in the typical style of a bar room whisky. It is designed to be easy to hold, easy to pour, and of course easy to store on the bar shelf. The bottle and label are simple but professional, and to be frank, it is a classy presentation. I am also pleased that the closure is a high density cork which seals the whisky in properly and gives me that nice satisfying  ‘pop’ when I first open the bottle.

In the Glass  8.5/10

The Bowmore 12 displays a light amber colour in the glass, and the immediate nose is of ash filled peat wrapped around a honeyed caramel. I took a little time to tilt my glass and give it a slow swirl. A crown shaped oily sheen was apparent which held back for a moment, but then released a multitude of slow-moving slender legs.

I allowed the glass to decant which caused the aroma to deepen. The peat began to demonstrate some floral characteristics, and it seemed to begin to carry more herbal qualities as well. The whisky is still bringing  forward a light ash-like aroma similar to the smell of coals from a wood burning fire when you are camping. There is nothing sharp or astringent in the breezes. Everything seems smooth and relaxed in the glass.

In the Mouth  50/60

The entry into the mouth leads off with that ashy peat filling your palate. I found it was important to allow the glass to breathe, which brings forward more floral flavours within the peat. The ash can dominate and strangle the lighter nuances if you rush the experience.

If the experience is not rushed, then the Bowmore 12 Year Old becomes more alive in the mouth with honeyed malty flavours, light oak spices, and a mildly pithy willow bark flavour. A lightly salted brine with hints of seaweed is also becoming evident within the peat. But, it is the peat which is first and foremost. Even after the glass is fully decanted it reminds me of wood smoke and charcoal.

However, it was I was while sipping  that well decanted glass full of wood smoke and charcoal that I began to notice that the peat was beginning to carry those other herbal and aromatic flavours forward. I wasn’t able to decipher quite what all these flavours were, but odd bits of heather and wild ferns come to mind. As I said earlier, if the glass is not rushed the whisky becomes more in that glass.

In the Throat 12.5/15

Islay whiskies tend to have long peaty finishes where the nuances of the oak and the malted barley can be lost in the wave of peat which clobbers the tonsils. We have a little of that here in the finish; but I also noticed firm caramel and subtle dry fruit flavours lingering on my palate, and hotter oak spices kept my mouth warm long after the glass was finished.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I returned to my sample bottle six times before I was satisfied that I got everything right (or at least as right as I was  able). In my first couple of tasting sessions I believed I rushed myself and the whisky, and I was punished for this with uncomfortable experiences of ash and smoke. But, then I slowed down, remembering that this whisky had laid in oak for 12 years and it deserved a certain amount of patience on my part. This patience allowed the whisky to become more, and that is when the Bowmore 12 rewarded me with a satisfying experience of subtle delicious flavours being carried by the peat rather than being strangled by it.

Patience is a virtue, and the Bowmore 12 requires patience on the part of the consumer to learn its secrets and enjoy its delicate nuances.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

The Rusty NailI recognize that some whisky drinkers just never seem to warm up to the Islay peat. In fact for some, peat, ashy smoke and seaweed brine is a peculiar mixture. For those persons I am going to suggest that a Rusty Nail is a great cocktail to enjoy with such a whisky. The Drambuie is a nice foil for a Peated Islay Whisky.

Rusty Nail

The official IBA formulation for the Rusty Nail is nine parts of Scotch Whisky to 5 parts of Drambuie.  This is a rather awkward formulation,  so Instead I will suggest a simple 2:1  formulation:

2 oz Bowmore 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
1 oz Drambuie
lemon slice

First fill an 8 oz tumbler glass with crushed ice.
Add the Scotch Whisky and the Drambuie
Stir gently until a the outside of the glass frosts.
Garnish with a lemon slice.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


One Response to “Bowmore 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky”

  1. Nick Apivor said

    Here’s a wonderful pairing to try over the cold Canadian winter. Christmas pudding and Bowmore 12. The sweetness of the pudding pairs wonderfully with the peatiness of the Bowmore. Mmmm………..enjoy!

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