Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 4 – Bowmore & my review of Dawn, their older Portwood bottling


Islay distilleries and their whiskies explained through Rock and Roll – Part IV (of VIII)

I started this series just four weeks ago and am just so pleased as to how well it’s being received.  Thank you all SO MUCH for tuning in (and commenting) to this series!

So, let’s tally up what’s happened so far.  Part one: Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols, Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer, Part three: Caol Ila as The 80’s. (They get their very own decade!)

Today in part IV we will have a chance to discover Bowmore’s older “Dawn” bottling.

Whisky aficionado and co-author of the 6th edition of Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion, Bill Meyers, introduced me to this whisky not too long ago.  Thanks again, Bill!  It was one that wowed me at the time.  I liked it enough to seek out a bottle and below are my tasting notes.

My previous posts in this series started off with the whisky review first then the Rock band comparison just after.  I’ll run the entire series this way.  So’s you know…

Bowmore “Dawn” Portwood – 51.5% ABV – $|£ – ??

On the nose — Immediate blast of smoke upfront.  However, as quickly as it hits you, it’s overtaken…

While the smoke remains, it waits patiently in the background as red gem candies and grape soda take center stage.

Coming back — there’s an underlying dankness, or earthy quality, quite like a mix between potting soil and fresh lavender.  The lavender is actually massive here.

This whisky has a lovely sweet and floral nose that’s balanced quite well with the smoke and earthy tones.

On the mouth — Remember that grape soda I mentioned?  It’s here, it’s queer, get used to it!  Queer as in its flavor not being one you’d normally associate with a whisky; especially an Islay whisky.

That lavender is back as well.

The port casks make themselves known with touches of spice on the back of the tongue (plus more of that fresh potting soil – the taste of the smell of, that is).

Spider mums and other flower-like scents.  This is quite the feminine whisky.  Me likey.

Finish — Spicy (lightly so) and with red fruits and just a touch of smoke.

In sum —  Coming back to the nose after every sip and that (sweet) smoke returns in a very nice way.  This is a solid, solid whisky.  If you’ve stayed away from port casked whiskies in the past, this may be one to change your mind and one to search out (just save me a bottle or two…).  I think I’ve discovered why it’s called dawn — this would make a solid breakfast whisky!  Wake, pour, sip and invigorate.


Bowmore – The Band!

I’ll get this one out in the open — I LOVE 70’s and 80’s Bowmore.  90’s Bowmore makes me happy too.  The variations of Bowmore released in the 2000’s+ seem to be a bit all over the place for me – a bit of a moving target.

However there have been some *solid* winners in my eyes.  The Bowmore Tempest releases come directly to mind.  As do Bowmore Dawn (reviewed above), Mariner, 25yo… heck, I really enjoy Bowmore Legend.  One of the most uniquely delicious whiskies I’ve had in years was the 26yo single cask Bowmore put out by Master of Malt (so G-d darned brilliant a whisky!!).

There are also Bowmore whiskies that I find to be ok but not overly thrilling – Bowmore 12, 15 and 18yos come to mind.  Decent whiskies but they don’t excite me like other Bowmores do…

While I may not be overly thrilled with that portion of their current standard range, I have a feeling that the addition of Rachel Barrie to the Bowmore team will put a shine upon their whiskies like we’ve not seen in a few years.  Alongside Dr. Bill Lumsden, Rachel Barrie has done some solidly good things during her time at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg.  Rachel, I can’t wait to taste all of the good whiskies that will come from Bowmore under your watch!

So, who are you, Bowmore??

I am actually reminded of David Bowie when I think of Bowmore.  With his every changing styles/fashion and outfit coupled with a good mixture of some of the best Rock and Rock to come out in the 70/80’s (followed by some albums later in his career, during the 90’s and 2000’s, that were not up to par with the his earlier work but still pretty damn good).  Not only am I a fan of 70’s glam, I’m a total Bowie Junkie.

Like Bowie, Bowmore is some something that others strive to be like but just can’t match.  Are you Hunky Dory or just Aladdin Sane?