Bowmore 1998 Hand-Filled (56.9%, OB, 2014)

My quest for the wine-and-smoke perfection takes me today to a real pearl. I completely forgot who gave me this sample (or even if I bought it)… so if you exist, oh mysterious donor, please let me know and I’ll give you a very well deserved shout-out! This one is a Bowmore, but maybe not the Bowmore you see everyday. It was hand-filled at the distillery back in 2014, after having spent around 16 years in a Bordeaux wine barrique cask (number 32152 – fist fill). Sounds good, right? Let’s see if it tastes good, too!

Nose: Very sweet, with a light, sweet, creamy smoke coming through. Mmh, I find quite soon something acidic, a smell that is quite well integrated, though. Something floral, like the smell of some small, delicate violets flowering in a burned down, post-apocalyptic desert. I’ve let it breath a while in the glass, and now it reveals its full Bowmority. Majestic and full, with some mighty cherry smoke. With water the wine-y side takes the lead for a bit, but after a while it’s that sweet smoke that steals the scene, enhanced and supported by some amazing cooked apples.
Taste: Chewy, sweet, sour, heavy. The smoke, instead, is light but still very much there. It’s a big, heavy hitter, this one, even though Bowmore’s elegance is still there. You know, buried under three tons of smoky, sweet, layers of smoldering oranges. It’s pretty entertaining, seriously, and at a blind tasting I would have probably never guessed that this one was a Bowmore – but then again, I famously suck at blind tastings. With water it’s the smoke that becomes the star, introducing a train of fruits (clementines, mandarins) coming through.
Finish: Not too long, very clean though! And that smoke wrapping some cherries is just on point.

Overall: I mean… it’s just super good! Now, how can I put it in numbers… let’s say 91/100? I was originally seeing it as going towards the 92s, maybe, but it’s probably lacking some gravitas for that. So, in short: yes, this is really really really good. And also yes, I used an exceptionally pretentious word to justify my rate.

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