Dream Dram: Bowmore Bicentenary (1979)
There’s legendary whisky, and then there’s legendary whisky. Bowmore from the 1960s is among the most praised and revered whisky ever. I therefor can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about having the chance to try the Bowmore Bicentenary.
For their 200th anniversary in 1979, Bowmore released a couple of different whiskies to celebrate. These Bicentenary bottlings appeared in the form of a 1964 vintage for example, but there’s also a 12 year old version. The edition I’m reviewing today is another one entirely. It has no age statement. But…
According to Serge Valentin the letter inside of the wooden box actually says: “This bottle contains a vatting of the oldest stocks in the Bowmore Distillery. Some of it was distilled in 1950, twenty-nine years ago. In fact the vatting contains whisky from ten different years between 1950 and 1966 – all very rare.”
So there you go. Some very old and very rare Bowmore from the 1950s and 1960s went into this vatting, which eventually resulted in just over 20.000 bottles (according to Whiskybase).
Bowmore Bicentenary 1979 (43%, OB, 20.400 bts.)
Nose: An array of tropical and red fruit. Mango at the forefront, but with kumquats, nectarine, strawberry and raspberry following closely. The complexity is unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. Almost a sensory overload. Hint of tobacco, a whiff of menthol, a touch of glue. Some raisins, cherry syrup and honey too. Incredibly fresh and vibrant, even after spending almost four decades in a bottle. This isn’t funny anymore.
Taste: I’m not quite sure where to begin. Motor oil, diesel, salt, eucalyptus, tobacco, rotten leaves (not that I’ve ever actually put those in my mouth, mind you), tiny hints of peat. Some cracked black pepper and nutmeg. But also pink grapefruit, oranges, mango and strawberries. Oh, and prunes, dates and raisins. Just effing stop already. I can’t handle this.
Finish: Menthol, ever so subtle peat, lingering fruit. Neverending.
Having impossibly high expectations of a whisky, and then it doesn’t just live up to those expectations, it surpasses them. That’s the mark of a truly legendary whisky. This goes straight to the top of my Top 10.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.