Bowmore Devil’s Cask III Single Malt Scotch Review

I picked up a bottle of Bowmore Devil’s Cask III on the recommendation of friend and fellow whisky enthusiast Kurt Maitland, who regularly contributes to as Deputy Editor.  In fact, you can read his review of this whisky here.   

Bowmore Devil’s Cask III is the third release in the Devil’s Cask series.  The first two were aged ten years in first fill sherry casks.  This third edition carries no age statement.  However, it does mention the whiskies inside the bottle were aged in first fill Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, hence the “double the devil” moniker.  I’d love to think the maturation in sherry casks is the sole reason for this deep ruby color, but the label doesn’t state whether this is natural color or not.  The good news is there is no chill filtering and we have cask-strength bottling.  56.7% abv to be exact.  The pricing situation is strange.  In the U.S., Bowmore Devil’s Cask III is available for about $85-$90.  Across the pond the price jumps up considerably.

A peated Islay whisky matured solely in sherry casks?  Yes please.

The nose is an intricate dance of sherried fruit and peated malt. Brine, blood orange and a touch of vanilla add to the complexity.  There’s lots going on here, but it doesn’t feel busy.  Bowmore’s signature peat coats your tongue after an initial sting of alcohol.  Both stewed red fruits and rich dried fruits emerge from behind a light layer of ashy smoke and vanilla.  Towards the back palate, freshly squeezed orange juice provides a touch of brightness.  The smoke slightly intensifies in the long finish, along with remnants of mulled red wine.

What an outstanding whisky!  It’s rich, but maintains a level of vibrancy.  The peat smoke and sherry cask influence never overpower one another and maintain a beautiful balance.  Thanks to Bowmore for bottling this one at cask strength and not watering it down.  Fantastic stuff.


A Taste of Bowmore Whiskies

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Nestled on the eastern coast of Loch Indaal on Islay, Bowmore sits proudly as one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.  It was founded in 1779, making it almost as old as the U.S.  The distillery is currently owned by Beam Suntory.  Each batch is overseen by Master Blender Rachel Barrie.

Bowmore produces a peaty whiskey, but it’s not as full and heavy as Laphroaig or Ardbeg whiskies.  The distillery still manages a small amount of traditional floor maltings, but the majority of malted barley comes from the mainland.

Traditional floor maltings at Bowmore.

Picture supplied by SNS Group/Peter Devlin

Their standard range includes Bowmore Small Batch along with 12-year, 15-year, 18-year and 25-year-old expressions.  Let’s take a look at their expressions.

Bowmore Small Batch

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Bottled at 40% and available for a suggested price of $39.99, Bowmore Small Batch is the only non-age stated (NAS) whisky in their core lineup.  It’s composed of whiskies aged in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks.  The nose is a tad on the younger side, and gives soft vanilla and fruit notes under a blanket of easy going peat.  The peat comes across like a bandage.  Taste-wise, I get a saccharine sweetness carrying spice, vanilla, and peat.  A crisp citrus note shows up in the mid-palate and follows through into the medium length finish.

After a couple of tastings, I can’t get into this expression.  It tastes okay, but isn’t spectacular or memorable.

My problem isn’t the lack of age statement on the label – that never really bothers me.  After all, the Scotch industry is headed that way regardless, so it’s best to get on board now.

In the case of this expression of Bowmore, I think it’s a combination of NAS and low proof.  A 46% abv version of this might give this whisky a much needed shot in the arm.


Bowmore 12-Year-Old

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery.

The nose on this 12-year-old expression of Bowmore is a bit punchier than it’s younger NAS sibling.  The peat is showcased more here, providing a slightly ashy smoke and iodine combination.  There’s a nice honey note providing the sweetness, along with lemon zest.  I best describe the entry as a “sweet bandage”.  That may be the strangest tasting note I’ve ever written. There’s clover honey and smoky ash accompanied by vanilla.  Mid-palate, lemon curd provides a tartness and creaminess to the tasting experience.  The sweet/ashy/citrus finish hangs around for a few minutes.  This is one of the few times the official distillery tasting notes are on par with my own tasting notes.

Bowmore 12-year-old is a much more refined and “complete” expression when compared to the Small Batch whisky.  Sure it’s peaty, but this whisky retains a light and crisp quality I don’t normally associate with Islay whiskies.  While it’s a nice dram, Bowmore 12 year isn’t one to dissect for an hour.  Pour a glass, sip, and enjoy.  A bottle should cost around $50.


Bowmore 15-Year-Old “The Darkest”

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery

Photo courtesy of Bowmore Distillery

This darker colored 15-year-old expression from Bowmore is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry casks, giving it the nickname of “The Darkest.”  Also of note is the slight raise in proof – 43% abv.

Those sherry casks provide a nice fruitiness and richness on the nose.   Dried fruits, vanilla, citrus and peat are the prominent aromas.  Toffee provides the rich sweet note.  On the palate, a quick hit of spice opens into a blast of orange zest and tropical fruit.  The peat note is not as prevalent as it is in the younger Bowmore expressions.  Again, the toffee note from the nose adds some sweet creaminess.  An ashy smoke note turns up at the back palate going into the long finish.

Bowmore 15-year is my favorite of the bunch.  I have a soft spot for sherried Islay whiskies.  The sherry casks provide another layer of complexity that I think this whisky benefits from.  It’s not as light in style as the Small Batch or 12-year-old, but that’s okay.  This expression carries a $65 price tag, making it $15 more expensive than the 12-year-old.   Totally worth it, as far as I’m concerned.  Recommended!


(Note: Review samples were provided by Bowmore.)

2015 Tales of the Cocktail: Beam Suntory Jul(e)p Hour

Suntory whisky lineup

The entire Beam Suntory world whisky portfolio was on display at a special event deemed “Jul(e)p Hour”.  As I walked into an old house on Royal Street in the French Quarter, I was met with the familiar sounds of New Orleans coming from a piano player in the corner.  In this room, Beam Suntory’s Master Mixologist was mixing up a world whisky julep, featuring Auchentoshan Single Malt Scotch, Alberta Dark Rye Canadian Whisky, Jim Beam Bonded Bourbon, & Hibiki Harmony Japanese Blended Whisky.  You know what, it was pretty tasty.  This frankenstein concoction evolved nicely as the ice melted, bringing a level of complexity I don’t get in the standard bourbon mint julep.