Thursday, April 29, 2010

Glenkinchie 12 years old Single Malt Whisky Review

Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
You are no doubt familiar with the words Speyside, Islay and Highlands, which of course refer to famous regions of Scotland that are home to many great distilleries.  But, Lowlands?  Maybe you have not heard of it and this is understandable.  The Lowlands is that region that generally borders on England. 

Anyway, enough of the boring little geography lesson.  What we are concerned with is whether or not such a region is home to a good distillery or two?  Well, actually it is home to three functioning distilleries:  Glenkinchie (near Edinburgh); Auchentoshan (near Clydeband) and Bladnoch (near Galloway).  We know from my previous review of Auchentoshan 12 year-old-single-malt that I am not a fan of that distillery.  The question for today is whether or not Glenkinchie is any good?  Well, students of scotch whisky, let's investigate!

I am not going to tell you how many hundreds of years ago this distillery was founded or the name of the brothers or family that started it all.  Why?  Because it seems that every scotch distillery has the same quaint, fairy tale, and I just refuse to parrot the stock marketing material embossed on the bottle labels and packaging.  I mean surely there was a greedy Scottish family out there, a couple hundred years ago, who were essentially bootleggers and tax dodgers, who made fine hootch and did it, not for the love of the spirit, but for the love of money!  Imagine that, a Scot who loved money?  What's wrong with that storyline?  I am waiting for that tale to be inscribed in fine poetry on the back of a scotch bottle.  I probably will have to wait a while for that one.

Before moving on to my tasting note, what I will tell you about Glenkinchie is an interesting observation made by the late, great scotch whisky chronicler, Michael Jackson, in his book Whiskey - The Definitive World Guide (DK Publishing Inc., 2005, NY).  At page 100, Mr. Jackson wrote that the greatest Lowland distillery was Rosebank.  It is owned by Diageo, a multinational drinks company, but closed in 1993.  How come? 

In order to answer the above question, a brief explanation of the Classic Malts Selection is necessary.  In 1988, a drinks company going by the name of United Distillers and Vintners (who subsequently were bought out by Diageo) started marketing six single malt whiskies by region:

Dalwhinnie 15 years:  Highland

Talisker 10 years:  Isle of Skye

Cragganmore 12 years:  Speyside

Oban 14 years:  West Highland

Lagavulin 16 years:  Islay

Glenkinchie 12 years:  Lowland

The problem with the "regions" of Scotland identified and marketed by United Distillers and Vintners and subsequently Diageo is that they are in some cases invented purely for the purposes of marketing.  No one else speaks of "West Highland" as a distinct scotch whisky region.  Moreover, such is the case for "Isle of Skye."  Why is this the case?  Simple.  Diageo wanted to showcase Oban and Dalwhinnie, referring to one as from Highland and the other from West Highland.  Isle of Skye is not normally regarded as a distinct scotch producing region.  It is merely home to one distillery, Talisker, which happens to be owned by Diageo.  All marketing.  The traditional regions of Scotland are: Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay.  It is interesting to note that Campbeltown has a long history of being a scotch producing region, but is not represented in the Classic Malts line-up.  Could it be due to the fact that Diageo does not own any Campbeltown distilleries?  Me thinks so.

So, what does the above discussion have to do with Rosebank?  Back to Michael Jackson at page 100:

"When Diageo put together its six-strong Classic Malts range, it had to choose between Glenkinchie and Rosebank for the Lowland representative.  Most people in the firm would have chosen Rosebank, but in marketing, image is all; Rosebank sat next to a dissused canal and bridged a busy main road, while Glenkinchie lay in pretty farmland, with more tourist appeal.

Why, though, close Rosebank down?  Even if it was insufficiently pretty to be a frontline distillery, the quality of its spirit was such that it deserved to be in the portfolio.  Today the canal is open and industrial heritage is celebrated, Rosebank remains closed."

So, there you have it.  Glenkinchie was not generally regarded as producing the finest single malt whisky in the Lowlands.  That prize went to Rosebank, but it got shut down in favor of Glenkinchie because the latter had a prettier location, which lended it to the aims of marketing.

Well, enough introductory remarks, let's see what Glenkinchie tastes like.

Glenkinchie 12 years

Fresh, lemony and citrus.  Very restrained.  Pleasant, but-not-over the top incredible.

Palate (undiluted)
Light bodied and ever so slightly peated.  Begins sweet and rounded with green apple.  A little creamy.  Flavors transition to lemony/lime cereal.  Maybe even lemon meringue pie.

Finish (undiluted)
The lemon meringue quickly disappears and what remains in the mouth is raw onion and faint wasabi (ugh!). The onion and wasabi foreshadow raw alcohol/ginger root that dries across the palate.  Not good.

General Impressions
This single malt starts out ok on the palate, but takes a horrible turn (think Jan & Dean's Dead Man's Curve) for the worse on the finish when the onion and wasabi appears before melding into plain old alcohol.  This is totally unacceptable at the high price point charged for this single malt scotch.  I am very disappointed. 

This single malt scotch was not cheap.  For the price, I expected a lot more.  I have no problem with it being light bodied.  What I have a problem with is that alcohol finish.  I mean rubbing alcohol.  Really makes it taste cheap on the finish.  No value for money here.  This is a single malt that confirms my opinion that blended scotch whisky can in some cases be better than single malts. 

I am unsure as to whether or not the addition of water improves this single malt.

Bottom line:  Not recommended.  Very expensive for what you get.  A simple unfolding of flavors.  Where is the complexity?  For a high priced single malt scotch, there is not the level of complexity of flavors that should be there.

If I was a Roman Empreror and this malt was a gladiator staring up at me from the bowels of the Colosseum, awaiting word of his fate, he would be getting a big thumbs down from me.

Jason Debly

P.S.  Is Glenkinchie Distiller's Edition any better?  Check out my review here.

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2010. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Johnnie Walker Green Label - A Vatted Malt that Beats Many Single Malts!

On Saturday night, I was at a local hotel bar with some friends.  I surveyed the menu of scotches available and noticed Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 years.  It is a blend of only single malts having a minimum age of 15 years.  Often this type of scotch is referred to as a "vatted malt."  It had been more than a year since I last had it, and a lot of readers had been emailing me my impressions of it.  I was enthusiastic in my email replies urging them to buy this great spirit.  So, I thought it was in order for me to try this scotch again to make sure that nothing had changed.  It lived up to my memory of it, and in fact reminded me that I have to buy a few more bottles.

It's a lovely scotch that for some reason does not have the popularity enjoyed by other blends like it's younger brother Black Label.  Not sure why this is the case.  Here's a theory: 

Johnnie Walker Green Label is priced in the same vicinity as many 10 and 12 year old single malts.  The typical consumer heads into the liquor store and will want to maximize value for money in a purchase.  Operating on the assumption that single malts are always superior to blends, he or she selects the 10 or 12 year old single malt over the vatted malt or pure malt scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker Green.  Accordingly, sales of this vatted malt are weaker than say Black Label that has no such single malt equivalent competition. 

There is some anecdotal support for my theory.  The liquor corporation that owns all liquor stores in my area has chosen to 'delist' (government speak for a halt on future orders) as they too believe customers are opting for the 10 and 12 year old single malts in the same price range.  Accordingly, I have started hoarding the remaining bottles available in my area . . .


So, who buys Johnnie Walker Green?  People who have stumbled upon it by accident or those who wondered what the other Johnnie Walker bottlings taste like.  That's how I discovered it.  Of course, there is also the category of customers who know Johnnie Walker Green to be better than many of the single malts at the same price point.  I think the company, Diageo, should consider increasing marketing of this wonderful product and maybe tackle head-on the assumption that 10 and 12 year old single malts are better.  Such a premise is often not true.  As you know, just because a scotch is a single malt does not necessarily mean it is better than a blended scotch, particularly this vatted malt.

Glenfiddich 12 yearsGlenkinchie 12 years, Glenlivet 12 years, Auchentoshan 12 years and Glendronach  12 years are clear examples of single malts that pale in comparison to Johnnie Walker Green Label.  Green Label offers a nicer nose, and a greater complexity of flavors.  Just add a little water (ie. one teaspoon) to a shot to bring out the complexity of flavors.

Frankly, I think Green Label is better than Blue Label.

Diageo, if you are out there and reading this post, take note, this is one consumer that wants to see this brand marketed more heavily to ensure its continued existence.  My great fear is that one day Diageo may stop making this great vatted malt.  A marketing campaign with a logo like "Green Label - A Vatted Malt that Beats Single Malts!" or something to that affect would be great and effective in increasing sales and thereby enabling me to continue to enjoy this wonderful spirit.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.

P.S.  Diageo totally ignored my suggestion in this post and instead have discontinued this diamond of a malt.  I discuss this terrible development here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Highland Park 25 years, Macallan 12 years, Tamdhu and Friends

This past Friday afternoon, I dropped by George’s office around 4:30pm. George, you will recall, is the fiftyish, personal injury lawyer, who has bottles upon bottles of unopened scotch given by clients as gifts. Since January, I have been endeavoring to drop by periodically on Fridays for impromptu scotch tastings. Just doing my part to make this place a better world.

“Brent will be dropping by,” George said.

I was ok with that. I had never met Brent, but he, like George, was another local personal injury lawyer, whose pulse quickened at the sound of an ambulance whine beyond the pane glass windows.

While we waited, not wanting to be idle, as that would be playing into the devil’s hands, George set a bottle of Macallan 12 years old and a previously opened Bowmore 10 years on the table.

I have never been a huge Macallan 12 years fan. Why? I just found the flavor profile to be just one flavor: sherry! It’s not poor quality, nor does it taste cheap, but rather one-dimensional and that dimension being: sherry! Nevertheless, none of these closely held opinions prevented me from having a dram while we waited for Brent. The nose was spicy vanilla. The palate was sherried in a high quality fashion. A little vanilla tucked in there I suppose but again not a lot else. George, on the other hand, enjoyed it immensely.

We heard the office door open from down the hall. George beckoned Brent to come on down much like Bob Barker. Brent appeared in the doorway with a litigation briefcase (one of those brief cases that looks like it could hold an accordion or something an encyclopedia salesman would be armed with). Clad in a navy blazer, button down shirt, rep tie, salt and pepper beard, studious glasses and a grin, he surveyed the boardroom table, the opened Macallan and the two tumblers.

George has many great qualities, but unfortunately his sense of thrift can interfere with a proper scotch tasting. The office tumblers are dark tinted blue glass that he picked up at the “Dollar Store.” I think they are phony “Blue Mountain” glasses. The authentic one’s aren’t suitable for drinking scotch let alone their counterfeit cousins.

“If we are going to drink scotch I thought we would have proper drinking glasses,” Brent declared as he reached into the cavernous briefcase and produced three crystal tumblers. We had not been introduced and I already liked the guy.

The next item he withdrew from the briefcase was a bottle of Highland Park 25 years, a bottle of water and a dark chocolate bar. Now, I knew for sure this guy was ok.

Brent poured some Highland Park 25 year old single malt, a scotch that I have only tried at Highland Park organized tastings. He insisted that we add a little water to open it up a bit.

Highland Park 25 yrs

Nose (diluted)
Damp leaves and spices.

Palate (diluted)
Medium to heavy bodied, chewy toffee, spice, wood smoke and marzipan.

Finish (diluted)
Long! Woodsmoke and malty. It’s a dream.

I really, really, really liked this single malt. So much so that I knew I would buy be buying a bottle in spite of its high price. George and Brent were in agreement.

We also tried the Highland Park with some dark chocolate that was 90% cocoa. It worked oh so well!

Highland Park 25 has a high alcohol content of I believe 47%. Accordingly, I expected a bit of a bite or to be taken aback by its strength. Not the case here at all. If you visit the website for Highland Park they have a video tasting and the taster, makes reference to it initially overpowering the palate and that it is not for the novice drinker. I disagree. This is so beautifully smooth with many nuances and subtleties that even a newbie can appreciate it.

In fact, we were able to test it on a newbie, namely Mike, the custodian who happened by. He preferred it neat and was enthusiastic about it too.  A more recent tasting note for Highland Park 25 is available by clicking here.

Brent also had another bottle for us to try. A bottle of Tamdhu. It did not have an age statement on it.


Nose (diluted)
Fresh cut grass, peat.

Palate (diluted)
Light bodied, sweet, key lime pie, rosemary.

Finish (diluted)
Short, a little watery (but in a good, cleansing way).

Brent explained that he picked up several bottles of this Tamdhu because it was great value for money and therefore functioned as a good daily drinker. We agreed.  I would definitely buy the Tamdhu as a casual drinking dram. 

I should also point out that the Macallan 12 years is by no means a poor single malt or flawed.  Brent and George really like it.  In the United States, it is enormously popular, but for me I would opt for something else.  Bottom line:  Everyone should try Macallan 12 years and judge for themselves.

In any event, that’s all for now.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Dewar’s 12 years old “Special Reserve” Blended Scotch Whisky

Lately, all I seem to purchase are single malt scotch whiskies. What about a good blended scotch whisky? I like Johnnie Walker Black Label. Green Label is very good.  Chivas Regal 12 years works too. What about Dewar's 12 years? Me thinks I need to try it. So, a bottle was procured from my local liquor store by yours truly, and so here we are.

Nose (undiluted)
Muted dandelions and malt notes. No strong aromas here. Very gentle scents.

Palate (undiluted)
Very sweet entry onto the palate followed by some feeble attempt to dry or evaporate, but this is mostly a failed attempt. Instead of drying there is a warm graininess. As for flavors, you will be greeted by sugary, cloyingly so, honey, followed by some malty notes and dark chocolate. There is a slight barnyard funkiness, something spoiled going on here. Not easy to put my finger on it. Think of the taste of rinds of tangerines left in the fruit bowl too long by the kitchen window, as the sun beams down day after day.

Finish (undiluted)
Artificially sweetened cereal. Think Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms in a bowl of chocolate milk with saccharine liberally sprinkled on top. That’s the very brief lingering taste. The saccharine really is a distinct and unfortunate (like a car accident) flavor on the finish. Yuck!

Nose (diluted)
Add a teaspoon of water and the pleasing undiluted nose disappears. In its place is the scent of damp leaves.

Palate (diluted)
The disappointment continues. The addition of water just punches up the NutraSweet levels to near diabetic coma conditions. Flavors? I dunno. I guess you could call it honey, Dollar Store honey, way past expiry date that was safe for human consumption.

Finish (diluted)
Graphite, cheap and short like Madonna's mini skirts from early '80's music videos.  This is junk scotch.

General Impressions
Please avoid at all costs. Drinking Dewar’s 12 years evokes childhood memories of bouts of car sickness on the long drive to Grandma’s house.

If I were to sum it up in a few words, I would say: grainy sweet with some malt notes on the finish. The taste is cheap. Reminds me of something rummies would drink. I am surprised it is a 12 year old blend. Also reminds me of J&B, which is not a good thing. I am still emotionally scarred from the last J&B tasting. Both are ridiculously sweet with simple, unadulterated flavors of artificial sweetener, honey and some malty cereal. Probably the best feature of this blended scotch whisky was the undiluted nose. It was subtle and pleasing and consequently provided no warning of the huge pedestrian crosswalk disappointment that awaits the unsuspecting and trusting fool.

Value for Money?
Me thinks not.  The price is within $1 of Johnnie Walker Black Label, another 12 yr old blended scotch, and it is the same price as Chivas Regal 12 years.  Dewar's tastes more like an economy blended scotch and they (ie. Johnnie Walker Red Label, Ballantines) are better.  Dewar's 12 years old is too expensive for what you get.  It is similar to J & B Rare, another terribly sweet blended scotch that is better consumed as part of a mixed drink.  Dewar's may work as mix, but the trouble is one should not have to spend that much for mix!

I still have about half a bottle. I am not going to finish it. I will give it to someone, but the questions is: Who do I dislike that much?

Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Macallan and Lalique Join Forces to do Good!

64 Year Old Macallan in a Crystal Decanter
Pictured above is a 64 year old single malt produced by the good people at The Macallan.  It is in a crystal decanter designed and handcrafted by the good people at Lalique.  Never heard of them, eh?  Me neither.  So, here's the deal. 

Lalique is a company based in France that designs and crafts the world's most expensive crystal vases, perfume bottles, jewellery and even furniture (glass/crystal tables).  I mean billionaires buy their wares. 

Why should you care? 
Well, the aforementioned French company and The Macallan (a company I am sure you are familiar with, and if not then please leave my blog now) have teamed up to produce a series of little crystal decanters (10cl) of the 64 year old Macallan plus only one large decanter (1.5L) of the scotch.  The decanters will be going on an international tour.  During the worldwide tour, there will be an auction conducted by Sotheby's of only one 10cl smaller crystal decanters per city.  The tour winds up in New York City in early November.  In New York, the large decanter will be auctioned off.  All the proceeds of the auction go to charity.

The charity is Charity: Water.  It is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean, safe water to people of developing nations.  They fund the drilling of wells, and other infrastructure projects to get water to those who don't have it.   

And that is why you should care.

My blog is usually a series of irreverent, hopefully entertaining, but probably at times rude musings on scotch and whisky.  Being preachy ain't my calling.  However, when two big companies get together to do something good, I try to see the good.  Yeah, yeah, I know that one could argue they are not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts, but merely to raise or maintain their respective "brand awareness."  You know what I say to such arguments?  So, what.  Good for them!  Companies are going to spend big dollars on advertising, but if they can do it and simultaneously stimulate worthwhile charity work, that's a great and commendable act.

 The Tour du Monde started in Paris just a couple of days ago on April 6th.  At the Four Seasons Hotel George V the first of several 10cl was auctioned off for 5,000 Euros (approx. $6,694 US).  A tidy sum that will provide a community of up to 250 people with clean water for 20 years.    Not all the money bid was just for the scotch.  Lalique crystal is collectible (an understatement if there ever was one) and appreciates in value like New York real estate on the Upper East Side.  “Chardons,” a 1903 RenĂ© Lalique jewel, sold for US$363,000 in October 2006 in New York.  In October 2009, an Art Nouveau multi-gem and enamel pendant necklace by RenĂ© Lalique was auctioned in New York for a world record US$554,500 (against an estimate of US$400,000).

Other cities that the grand scotch and decanter will visit are:

Madrid : late April

London : early May

Moscow : late May

Hong Kong : early July

Johannesburg : August

Taipei : early September

Shanghai : late September

Singapore : early October

Tokyo : late October

New York : early November

For more information on this tour and photos please use the link:
What Can You Do?
Of course, I do not expect you to attend these auctions and bid on this single malt.  Most of the readers of this blog are much like me: not rich and likely the polar opposite.
What you could do is buy any bottle of The Macallan.  By supporting this distiller, you are indirectly supporting this charitable initiative.  I'm serious. 
You could also make a donation of your choosing to Charity: Water directly.  Try that! 
Anyway, I will do my part by buying a bottle of The Macallan 18 year old Sherried version for an upcoming review.  Ahh! the things I do in the name of charity!
Jason Debly
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2010. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 10 & 12 years

Novice scotch fans
What do they like? I should know because I used to be one. Usually, someone unfamiliar with scotch whisky or only having a casual acquaintance with it will gravitate toward the sweet, honey and cinnamon malts of the Speyside region. Easy drinking, smooth, kind of like a liquid candy bar. Hence, the popularity of blends like J&B, Bells, Ballantines and others.  Generally, the novice does not like peaty scotch and the peatiest come from Islay.


Islay (pronounced ‘eye-lah’) is an island located off the southern Scottish coast. A land with virtually no trees and plenty of peat. Peat, you will remember, is layers upon layers of decaying plants (grass, underbrush, bushes, etc.) in waterlogged areas like bogs and moors. How peat becomes an integral flavor component of single malt scotch is due to an early step in the distillation process.

After the barley is gathered and submerged in local water for a couple of days (in order to cause germination), it will be spread on the floor of a ‘kiln.’  A fire is started underneath the floor and the fuel for the fire is peat. The smoke travels up through the ventilated floor and adheres to the barley imparting the smoky, tar, medicinal and sea weed flavors we associate principally with Islay and the word ‘peat.’

As soon as you pour an Islay malt the smoke, tar and peat aromas escape the glass and in many cases can fill a room. This is a good thing if you like scotch. Not so great if you do not, which was the case a couple of weeks ago when I visited my friend, George, at his office on a late Friday afternoon. We were having a dram of Bowmore around 4:30pm (I would never leave work!) when the office manager passed in the hallway remarking that she could smell the whisky from outside the boardroom. She was not impressed and promptly left. Her loss . . .

A Stash of Scotch
George is a lawyer (don't hold that against him) and every once in awhile a client is happy with what he has done, and so a gift in the form of a bottle would appear at reception. Over the years, quite a few bottles have accumulated at his office. Strange thing is that he has never gotten around to taking them home or having a drink at the end of a long day. Anytime there was a drink it would be in a bar.

Well, that all changed this winter when I dropped by the office unannounced and discovered how charitable his clients had been. There were bottles in the bookcase, a couple in the kitchen sitting in the cupboards and a few in his desk. They were all covered in dust and unopened! Royal Salute, Glenlivet 12 yrs, Highland Park 12, Glenlivet 18, Johnnie Walker Blue and others. They were obviously old because in many cases the labels were clearly from the 1980’s. George was the only scotch drinker in the office. The other two employees were ladies who had no interest. When I would show up we typically headed to a local bar or pub. Well, a couple of weeks ago that all changed when I suggested we open some of these antique bottles (not really antique but certainly not new). He agreed. The one we tried was a Bowmore 10 year old (700ml) that had been a special bottling for the Opimian Society. By the way, the Opimian Society is a cooperative that buys wine for its members. George was a member at one time. So was I until kids came and I found the wine collecting/drinking habit too expensive.

Anyway, George took a photo of the bottle but has been remiss in emailing it to me so I do not have it in this posting. Will have to badger him on that little task. In any event, the label reads: “Private Selection The Opimian Society Bowmore 10 yrs old 1990 distillation.” (Since the original posting, he has provided the pic.  It's below.)  If it was distilled in 1990 and has an age of 10yrs, then it was bottled in 2000. This corresponds with George’s weak memory. I was quite interested to taste a bottle that sat on a bookcase for ten odd years.  Here’s the tasting note:

Private Selection The Opimian Society Bowmore 10 yrs old 1990 distillation

Peaty.  Charcoal.  Oak.

Peat. Ash. Tar. Restrained for an Islay single malt.

Salt, brine, dries on palate as a plume of pipe smoke takes over.

General Impressions
I was impressed. I am not a huge Islay scotch fan but do enjoy this one. George was not so impressed. He described it as the diet cola of Islay scotch or something to that affect.  He said he could not understand how a peaty scotch could be so light bodied.

Also present for the tasting was Mike, he turned up that Friday afternoon in the course of various building maintenance duties. I hollered down the hall for him to join us and he did. Mike was not a fan. He did not like it at all. But, it should be noted that he is not a novice scotch fan, but rather a scotch virgin and needs to suckle at the breast of blended Speyside scotch whisky before venturing into Islay territory. Mike did have some Highland Park 12 year old on another Friday after work and he was very impressed. We will have to mentor Mike to see the fine attributes of Islay scotch. As for George, a veteran of many empty scotch bottles, well I guess there is no explaining bad taste . . .

. . .

Having tried an old bottling of Bowmore, it made me want to explore Bowmore some more. My friend James had mentioned that he had tried the 12 year old bottling and enjoyed it, and so I decided to try it as a comparison.

Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 12 years

Nose (undiluted)
Delicate smoke, sulphur, and medium peat. This single malt scotch has probably the gentlest of Islay malt aromas. The scent of sulphur is a little off-putting, but don’t worry, it never rears its head in the palate.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet, 300 thread-count, pillow soft, peat. Lakeside bonfire smoke of fallen tree branches that had been gathered on a windswept, overcast October afternoon.

Finish (undiluted)
Quite long. Drying sea salt, black tea and a little mint, all in a cloud of mild Canadian cigarette smoke. The final taste is ashes. The tail end of a big cigar.

General Impressions
A nice change from Lagavulin 16 years. Sometimes I am not in the mood for Lagavulin 16 years. As great a single malt as it is, it is rather ‘over the top’ and so, does not lend itself to being casually enjoyed while say chatting with friends or watching The Masters. Lagavulin 16yrs commands or rather demands your attention. Naturally, it is not suitable for every occasion.

When you want to just unwind with friends and make small talk, watch the game or just unwind in front of the TV, Bowmore 12 years fits the bill to a “T.”

Ardbeg 10 years Comparison
Ardbeg 10 years is a competitor to Bowmore 12 years. The Ardbeg is coarser. The peat, salt and smoke flavors are more robust and lacking the sophistication of the Bowmore. Certainly, Ardbeg 10 years has its fans, who probably number more than the Bowmore, but I cannot be counted among them. I definitely prefer the Bowmore for its’ restraint. Finally, Ardbeg 10 is more expensive by a considerable margin, which again makes Bowmore 12 more attractive from an economic point of view.

Price Point
In terms of price point, it’s very reasonable. Actually, it is one of the lowest priced 12 year old single malts. By factoring in the price and considering the flavor profile, you soon realize there is value for money here.

Is this for you?
Probably. It’s fairly difficult not to like this single malt. Even if you are a novice scotch fan lacking a deep affection for Islay malts with their classic peat and smoke flavors, this malt probably will reel you in. The main reason for it’s appeal is that none of the Islay flavors are too robust. Everything is gentle, balanced and therefore not likely to offend. Accordingly, it is a great ‘starter’ Islay single malt for those who are unfamiliar with Islay or in the past had decided it was not for them. If you have held such thoughts, Bowmore 12 years may change your mind.

One caveat though.  This is a type of scotch that I cannot sit down several nights in a row and drink.  It's just a bit much in the peat/smoke department.  So, I am happy to have it in the cabinet as a nice change but it is not a regular 'go-to' scotch or whisky like Johnnie Walker Black, Highland Park 12, Jim Beam Black and a few others that I simply never seem to tire of.  An exception to my comment would be if you are a peat and smoke fan of Islay single malts.  I am, at heart, a hardcore Speyside/Highland nut.  Maybe an Islay fan would insist that this could be a daily drinker.  Just not for this guy.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.

Photo Credits:  Islay photograph taken by Chris Bazley-Rose
First Bowmore 12 photograph is available as a download at the Bowmore website (
Second Bowmore 12 years photograph appearing in garden taken by Jason Debly.
Bowmore 10 yrs Opimian edition - photography by Jason Debly