It was the best of distilleries, it was the worst of distilleries. Bowmore is a legendary Islay distillery known for putting out some extraordinary single malts. The Black Bowmore is a deservedly legendary dram, blending sherry and peat so intensely that hardly any other similarly profiled whisky can compare. I recently was at a Bowmore tasting and marveled at the richness of the 30 year old Sea Dragon and some lovely independent bottlings. These Bowmores are about balance, between peat and sherry, fruit and smoke.
But there is another Bowmore, a darker, evil twin that tastes like cheap perfume. Bowmores produced in the 1980s in particular seem to have this heavily perfumed quality. Now, I freely admit that I may be oversensitive to this particular taste, but I just can't stand it. I can smell it a mile away, and I've even been able to detect it in blends. Now I've heard that they've changed practices such that they don't end up with that flavor profile anymore, but if there is any left in casks anywhere, please someone destroy it.
I also recently tasted an old 21 year old, as part of the tasting described above that included the Sea Dragon, that carried aromas of rotting food, which some described as corpse-like.
How can one distillery produce both some of the most exceptional malts but also some of the worst? Buying Bowmore is like a combination of the lottery and Russian Roulette. When you win, you win big, but when you lose, you really lose.
This ends our series of the world's worst whiskey. It's interesting to note that all of my worst whiskey choices were single malts, and two of the three were Scotches. That's not to say there aren't bad whiskeys from other parts, but these were the most interesting bad whiskeys I came across.
After a good palate cleanser, it's time to get back to the good stuff, and I mean the really good stuff! Tune in next week.