Hey there Pandas! I have with me here an intriguing edition to sample today from one of the quieter Islay distilleries- Bowmore.
This particular expression deliveries exactly what it promises- an Atlantic sea-salt caramel profile. It even reminds me of an ice cream flavour from Island Creamery.
Golden liquid in packaging with a blue and gold colour scheme. The bottle and box that it comes within is actually quite pretty and almost a shame to open. Yet whiskies are for drinking and not collecting, so here we go!
Distributor: Original Bottling (OB)
Classification: Scotch Whisky
Style: Single Malt
Behind the Label
The first whisky distillery on Islay to receive a licence, Bowmore Distillery was officially founded in 1779. Whisky from Bowmore is known for its rich body, and smoky sea-salt and sweet tropical fruits character.
Bowmore’s very beautiful Vault Edition series of bottlings are designed to highlight and showcase the distillery’s signature flavours. Each release showcases a different flavour element from Bowmore: (1) Atlantic Sea Salt, (2) Peat-Smoked Perfection, (3) Full-bodied Fruitiness and (4) Silky Sweetness.
The “Atlantic Sea Salt” edition we have today is matured in purely ex-bourbon casks, and is intended to highlight the distillery’s signature maritime flavours, while displaying its classic smoky and fruity nature.
(Image Source: Old Liquor Magazines)
Another special thing about the Vault edition is that the spirit is matured exclusively in barrels stored in Bowmore Distillery’s legendary warehouse “No. 1 Vaults”. The No. 1 Vaults is an underground warehouse that during high tide seasons, lie below sea level. The warehouse is also the oldest ever Scotch maturation warehouse that is still in use today.
The wild Atlantic ocean by Bowmore (Image Source: The Dramble)
According to whisky fanatics, the No. 1 Vaults creates the perfect environment for maturation of whiskies because the temperature is constantly cool and dam. The salinity of the air in the warehouse (with a wall that immediately faces the North Atlantic Ocean), is also said to infuse a briny ocean character into the maturing spirits over the years.
This first edition of the Vault Edition is supposed to present the trade mark “sea salt tang” of Bowmore in a whisky that “opens out like the vast Atlantic Ocean itself”. Let’s open the door and experience this one.
In the glass, light gold.
On the nose, this is initially rather subtle with very soft crisp notes of lemon, honey and kumquat. Feel free to take a bold deep breath to really get at the flavours- there is barely any alcohol burn here. Despite its Islay provenance, the presence of peat is so gentle you might not have noticed it. A minute of swirling and resting teases out more crisp fruity notes of lemon and kumquat with a profile of buttered popcorn, and slightly woody notes of vanilla, coconut flakes and pencil shavings.
Adding a few drops of water enhances the flavours somewhat, opening up to a wave of coastal notes and smoke.
There is a little bit of salinity here but it is so understated at the outset.
On the palate, things really start coming into focus even as the fruity flavours are rather gentle. This whisky is really bigger on its mouthfeel with medium-rich and velvety texture. The moment after the first sip feels like I’m surfing on an Atlantic wave with clear notes of honey and sweet-and-tart kumquat (think of this as a more sour and juicier tangerine) and briny sea spray in the mouth. This develops into substantial vanilla, crème brulee and caramel sweetness, that combined with the brine does feel reminiscent of having salted caramel ice cream from Island Creamery.
(Image Source: Daniel Food Diary)
It does feel that the strength of the ABV really provides a more satisfying impact of flavour, with lovely fruitiness and creaminess coming forth.
A few minutes of airing this draws out more complexity. The very aromatic peat starts growing in intensity and carries a sooty and mild iodine note- reminds me of my visit to the dentist’s office. Oakiness also begins to grow with coconut flakes, a mild cocoa bitterness and cinnamon spice. There is very little overall spiciness from this generally smooth ex-bourbon matured expression. Very slight copper note that one might not even notice.
The finish is medium in length with some oiliness, lingering brine, aromatic smoke and fading cocoa powder.
This Bowmore Vaults Atlantic Sea Salt edition is a very sweet, fruity and complex NAS expression. I found myself sipping this absent-mindedly without realising that I’ve imbibed 3 drams. It is almost addictive.
Two Boston lobsters. It delivers what it promises with its focus on salinity and is also quite approachable with its clean texture and moderate spice. I particularly love the notes of coconut flakes and salted caramel ice cream.
This is a good dram on its own but a must-have for anyone who likes an ordinary Bowmore.
With its focus on vanilla, briny flavours and very subtle smoke, you have to pour a dram or two to compliment a cup of creamy salted caramel ice cream with toasted coconut flakes.
(Image Source: Bon Appetit)