Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Sip of the Darkest

"Whisky is liquid sunshine."
-George Bernard Shaw

An extraordinary event happened a few weekends ago. My blogging partner Blacker S came to visit me in Moncton, New Brunswick. He decided to take a break from Montreal to visit my new digs and indulge in some whisky tasting in order to celebrate getting through a bad relationship and starting off fresh. He was in the mood for some liquid sunshine and I certainly couldn't let him drink alone. This would be the first dram in a while for me as well, since in a show of solidarity with my pregnant wife (and trying not to make her jealous) I have not been drinking any whisky (or much else for that matter) for the past 5 months.
But this weekend was a special occasion. Blacker S and I decided to pick up a bottle of Bowmore Darkest and do a tasting, making it our first official whisky tasting for The Spirit Safe.
For those not familiar with Bowmore, it is a single malt scotch from Islay. Islay is an island off the Western coast of Scotland and is part of the Western Hebrides. I will compose a posting later explaining the reasons why, but suffice to say that this small island of roughly 3000 inhabitants has 8 working distilleries, making it a whisky mecca.
Islay whiskies tend to have a smoky, peaty character and the Bowmore Darkest is no exception. While Bowmore malts are generally not as peaty as some of the other Islay heavyweights, like Lagavulin, Laphroaig or Ardbeg, they do pack a decent amount of peat and smoke thereby serving as a great introduction to Islay-style whiskies.
The standard distillery bottling of Bowmore is a 12 yo, and is a pretty well-rounded whisky. The Darkest has been aged to 15 years and spent some time in sherry casks, which impart some of the sherry flavour and colour to the whisky. You will see this immediately if you compare its colour to that of the standard Bowmore, which is more of an amber gold colour, while the Darkest has a more reddish tint - more like the colour of brandy.
Blacker S and I did two separate tastings and we combined our notes for both tastings together, while keeping our individual notes separate:

Nose: burnt toffee, smoke and peat, cherry blossoms (the chocolate ones!).

Taste: sweet and salty, with sherry and vanilla flavours, then the peat.

Palate: A little thin, not oily with less "mouth feel" than expected.

Finish: Long, with some burnt wood and peat flavours. Bitter.

Value: This bottle costs 65$ CDN and is certainly worth the money. The finish could be better, but it certainly holds up well to other bottles at this price. If you're a fan of standard Bowmore, do yourself a favour and give this one a try.

Nose: caramel, raspberries, salt and peat. Warm and well-rounded.

Taste: Salt and sherry, less peat than the nose would make you think.

Palate: Not much "mouth feel", sweetness at the front of the tongue, some burning at the back of the mouth.

Finish: Long, starts s
weet and ends with bitterness (sounds like a relationship!).

Value: Definitely worth the money. The price of this bottle can range from 65$ to $90 CDN depending on where you buy it, but priced anywhere below $80 it's a great value.

All in all, the Darkest dram has been a worthy first tasting and a little bit of liquid sunshine for the crew here at the Spirit Safe. Please feel free to add your own tasting notes or thoughts on this whisky in the comments section of this post.

Until next time, Slainte!