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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: Black Bowmore 42 Year Old

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we sample an 18- and 42-year-old Scotch.

Bowmore is one of the top 10 Scotch brands worldwide. The Islay distiller has been around since 1779. Islay, part of the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, is known for its intense, peaty single malts. Thanks to Anne Riives, who handles PR for Bowmore in the U.S., I had the unique opportunity recently to try a pair of Bowmore's best, including the rare Black Bowmore 42 Year Old.

Distilled on Nov. 5, 1964, Black Bowmore has been quietly aging in a below-sea-level cellar along Loch Indaal. Five casks pulled out of the cellar for this bottling yielded 827 bottles. Just 80 were shipped to the U.S. this month. The price tag is a heart stopping $4,500 a bottle, but it does comes in a mahogany box inlaid with maple burl and copper.

The sample I tasted was a dark cola color. There is clear influence from the Oloroso sherry casks where the malt was aged for more than four decades. Coffee, a hint of cocoa and the signature Islay smoky peat rounded out the experience.

I doubt the 80 bottles shipped to the U.S. will be available at retail for very long, even at the exceptional price. This is the fourth time Bowmore has released special whisky from this vintage. In 1993 it was a 29 year old priced at $100 a bottle. A 30 year old rolled out in 1994 and a 31 year old in 1995, priced at $200 a bottle. Occasionally some one still finds one of these bottles at retail for near the original price. That is a truly lucky shopper. At a spirits auction held in New York in December the three age expressions of the vintage were sold in a lot for a bid of $18,000. Collectors prize this stuff.

If you cannot afford the 42-year-old, you should give Bowmore 18 Year Old a try. At $85 a bottle it fits into the affordable luxury category. This whisky is a rich copper color and has a lovely sweet nose. At 86 proof it has a mellow smoky flavor profile with hints of dark cocoa and tobacco around the edge.

A unique feature of the Bowmore Distillery that is a big hit with whisky lovers is the five cottages on the distillery property recently renovated and available for rent by guests. Islay attracts a steady stream of tourists and these lodgings are difficult to book. Your best bet is to plan ahead and send an email to info@morrisonbowmore.co.uk.

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