Mercury’s Selection for Maltaholic Bowmore 30 Year (1989)

Scotch Whisky Review #388: Mercury’s Selection for Maltaholic Bowmore 30 Year (1989)

Distillery: Bowmore.

Bottler: Fox Fitzgerald for Mercury’s Selection / Tiger’s Selection.

Region: Islay.

Age: 30 Year. Distilled in 1989. Bottled in 2019.

Cask Number: 6121.

Cask Type: Bourbon Barrel.

ABV: 51.8%. Cask Strength.

Price: Sample courtesy of /u/federalagents.

Color: 1.0, Deep Copper. Natural Color and Non-Chill Filtered.

Nose: There is tons and tons of smoke coming out all over the place on this dram. The smoke is very earthy and a little dirty with some cigar notes in it. After a long time, I’m talking about a hour of air time, the earthiness does let up and gives way to a series of sweeter notes. It starts with a sweeter smoke, smoked or grilled fruits perhaps? Notes of apricot and peaches come closest with the smoke with some grilled pineapple notes following. As things get even a little lighter and sweeter, out comes notes of pears, watermelon, and even some cotton candy.

Palate: At full strength, the palate here is pretty bland and one dimensional. It’s sweet, but that’s about it. Thankfully, just a little bit of water (around two-three drops for me) really shakes this to life and boy does it open up beautifully. From the generic sweet notes come an onrush of orchard and stone fruits. Apples, pears, and peaches are what I picked out. A minute or two after adding water, some more savory and umami notes start coming in after the fruits. Meat juices from various grilled meats and the distinct flavor of charcoal barbecue come through nicely behind the sweeter fruit notes. It’s almost like the combination of a sweet and fruity sauce with barbecue.

Finish: It goes on for seemingly forever. It starts quite dirty with charcoal smoke and some soot. There’s a little bit of grilled fruit, grilled peaches is my guess, but overall quite earthy. With water, that dirty earthiness does let up to bring in some more savory and sweeter notes. Charcoal grilled steak is a major note here along with a note I always describe as taking a well buttered dinner biscuit and just soaking up all of the juices that comes out of a steak like that. There’s some demi glace as well which leads the transition into sweeter notes. Some more smoked/grilled fruits come out before ending on a note of smoked sugar.

Conclusion: I’ve not had a lot of Bowmore from the 1980s, largely due to cost and also due to the fear of getting an overly perfumed one. This 1989 distillate is unlike any Bowmore I’ve had to date. Despite 30 years to rest in a cask, it is still incredibly smoky and hits quite hard with those peatier notes. After my first couple of sips, I had noted to /u/b1uepenguin that I might have guessed this to be an Octomore if I was served it blind and after having it all, I am absolutely convinced I would have done so. The nose at first is incredibly smoky with a very welcoming earthy/dirtiness to it. As time passes, fruitier notes come through in waves. The palate could have been the let down but with water, it gives a phenomenal combination of sweet and fruity along with savory. The finish goes on forever and similar to the rest of this whisky, gives an incredible balance of earthier, smokier notes along with sweeter, fruitier ones. Bravo to whomever picked this cask as it is outstanding.

Final Score: 97.

Scotch Whisky Review #388, Islay Review #63, Whisky Network Review #542

Scoring Legend:

  • 96-100: The perfect dram, nectar of the gods.
  • 90-95: Near perfect, there is something truly special about this whisky.
  • 85-89: Amazing, will always try to keep a bottle of this in my collection (if feasible).
  • 80-84: Very Good, maybe only one minor nitpick about the whisky keeping it here.
  • 75-79: Good, quite enjoyable to drink.
  • 70-74: Solid, wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.
  • 60-69: Meh, still drinkable.
  • Below 59: If you have a bottle of this, start cooking with it instead.

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