The Scottish island of Islay, while small in size and in population, is one of the world’s foremost places for whisky distillation due to its prime location and environment. The island is hounded by rain and the wind whips the sea up onto the rocks, splashing salt across the peated ground. The majority of the land itself is bog, comprised of an abundance of mosses, shrubbery, and grasses that result in a very distinctive and highly characteristic type of peat. It is this peat that makes Islay whiskies so famously known, for it provides the distilleries here with a rich infused smokiness that is flavored with complex combinations of sea salt, cedar wood, fruits, and spices. While Islay whiskies are strong and smoky, which may be hard for beginners to sip on, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a whisky here that provides a smooth, fruity, rich, yet gentler taste while keeping true to Islay’s peaty uniqueness. The Bowmore 12 and the Bowmore 15 are two of such whiskies which may interest those who are newer to Islay single malt whisky.
What to Expect from them
While both of these whiskies come from the Bowmore Distillery, are aged and processed in their No. 1 Vaults, and are categorized as part of their core range, they take on very different paths in color, flavor, and the experience they provide. In the Bowmore 12, you are going to smell the fresh sea air, find tangs of salt, and get a hint of sweet honey nectar that has been sharpened by lemon zest. In the Bowmore 15, you will be met with a gentle smoke mixed with rich raisins and find rich toffee flavours.
The Tasting Notes of The Bowmore 12 vs the Bowmore 15
To the eye, the Bowmore 12 is a warm amber that reflects back the subtle honey and lemon that you will inevitably breathe in when you lift the glass to your nose. It is sweeter to take in than the Bowmore 15 and is slightly more smokey off the top but mellows out for a long finish. It may remind you of the coast of Islay, with its gentle smokiness, bergamot, orange zest, and lemon slices which combine into a rather floral end note. The Bowmore 15, on the other hand, is darker to the eye, resembling that of burnt Sienna which is a deep reddish-brown colour. When you breathe in the Bowmore 15, you are going to get a heavier, darker, and punchier blend of Corinth raisins, Sherry notes, sweet dates, and spices. This may blend together to create a rich dark chocolate and raisin aroma. While both whiskies do share some fruity notes, the Bowmore 15 gives off a powerful wooded scent, while the 12 is gentler and sweeter honey, lemon blend with little to no wood notes.
To the palate, the Bowmore 12 is a fantastic mix of tropical fruit, peat and smoke, while the Bowmore 15 adds in orange, leather, smoke, and Sherry from its Sherry casks. The Bowmore 12 is going to be warm, delicious, and subtle while the Bowmore 15 is going to be rich in its treacle toffee flavours and give off powerful hints of cedar wood. As you savour each of these, expect a long and mellow finish from the 12 and a warming but robust and spicy finish from the 15.
How to Choose Between the Two?
If you are looking to experience the traditional Islay whisky in all of its peaty glory, the gentler, sweeter Bowmore 12 is well-balanced, smooth to sip, and still provides that distinctive Islay smoke without the harshness of other Islay whiskies. The 12 will warm you, give you a delicious hint of dark chocolate combined with tropical fruit, and finish off gently. But, if you are looking for a richer experience that has more indulgent aromas and a deeper, complex, and fuller finish, the Bowmore 15 is the one to choose. It is balanced with earthy, peaty notes, sour cherries, Sherry and toffee. Due to the extra years of aging that it receives in Sherry casks, this whisky has more depth and character to it, giving the drinker a more robust experience.
What About Pricing, Alcohol Content & Accolades?
The Bowmore 12 comes in at SGD 83.90 a bottle with 40% ABV. It won a gold award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2018 and a gold award at the International Spirit Challenge in 2017.
The Bowmore 15 comes in at SGD 139.80 a bottle with 43% ABV. It won a gold award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2018, a double gold award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2018, and a gold award at the International Spirits Challenge in 2017.