Bowmore 21 Year Old ‘Château Lagrange’ is the second release of a limited edition series of French Oak expressions from Bowmore distillery. The red wine barriques come from Château Lagrange, a Grand Cru Classé winery in Bordeaux (owned by Suntory, just like Bowmore itself – thanks for the addendum, Philippe).
Sourcing barrels from famous wineries is a way of co-branding that makes people think the quality of the wine will reflect on the whisky. In reality though, I don’t think it is truly relevant. I’ve never experienced barrels from higher crus resulting in better whisky.
Bowmore 21 yo ‘Château Lagrange’ – French oak barriques (48,4%, OB 2021)
Nose: funnily fragrant, with hints of bergamot but also lavender and Thai basil. Behind this there are Muscat grapes, cranberries and cassis. Salty sea breeze, floral honey and raisins. After a while the funky fruits merge into a more classical combination of mango, pink grapefruit and peat smoke, albeit with the lightest hint of soap.
Mouth: still quite floral and fragrant. No FWP, mind you. Citrus and darker berries, mixing with acrid smoke and leathery notes. Slightly thin, missing richer fruits. It becomes bittersweet with more tannins from the wood. Nuts with a bitter chocolate coating, as well as a light coastal touch.
Finish: medium length, with an increasing bitter / mineral note. Hazelnuts and sour fruits.
The fragrant notes, the bitterness and tannins of the wood and the lack of depth make this a rather disappointing release, despite the nice flashes of fruits. Grand Cru Classé doesn’t mean anything when it comes to whisky maturation, in my humble opinion. While full bottles seem to be sold out, The Whisky Exchange is still selling samples.