I don’t have a clear-cut opinion on Bowmore. My first experiences were very bad (think of the Dusk, Dawn, Darkest bottlings). Independent releases were always clearly better though, and there seems to have been a turning point in the 1990’s which improved the OB’s as well.
This Single Malts of Scotland bottling is from a sherry butt which is not very common for Bowmore.
Bowmore 13yo 1995 (56,4%, SMOS 2008, sherry butt n°419, 627 btl.)
At first, the nose is closed with only some dusty mineral notes. After a few minutes at hand temperature, it really opens up: pipe tobacco, nice liquorice and old leather books. Also coffee, Oaxaca chocolate (Mexican chocolate, lighter and spicier than the product we know in Europe), pepper and an array of coastal hints. Really complex, no need to taste this too soon! Fantastic balance. Although both components are present, this is not a young peat or smoke bomb on the nose, and it seems older than it actually is.
Mouth: really impressive. Instant wave of sweet peat and smoke. After that, a wave of sherry with rich spices (cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper again) and wet forest notes in the distance. Great how the sherry and the whisky keep fighting, with a nice draw in the end.
Finish: slightly bitter notes, a bit salty as well. More chocolate and tobacco. Long aftertaste.
Impressive. Big whisky and magnificent value for money (at around € 60).