[Review] Bowmore - 12 years old 40%

For people who are relatively new to whisky and want to try some peaty single malt without being hit by the full power of a Laphroaig or an Ardbeg, Bowmore seems like a pretty good choice. I might have mentioned that Bowmore Small Batch is the bottle which initiated me to the peaty stuff. It is reasonably peated for an Islay whisky, which allowed me to enjoy the taste without being completely overwhelmed. It also made me curious to try more peaty whiskies, progressing to Caol Ila 12 before jumping into Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Kilchoman Machir Bay or Lagavulin 16. So at the time, Bowmore was a great dram in my mind. I was desperate to try the rest of the Bowmore range too, which actually took quite a while before it happened. My first go at the 12 was last Easter whilst on Islay with a few friends. We visited the distillery and thought we had to buy a bottle to have a few drams in the evening, and so we purchased a 12 year-old. However, despite being a pleasant enough drink, I cannot say I was and still am very impressed by it. And it was the same of the 18 years old I tried at the distillery. To me, they taste mass produced. The whiskies have been chill-filtered, coloured and brought back down to 40% ABV for the 12 and 43% for the 18, which probably doesn't help. I also presume that the fact I have tried a nice little range of other peaty whiskies from different distilleries, independent bottlers, with different types of aging and ABV, have made me pickier. 
So let's have a look at this 12:


As I mentioned above, Bowmore 12 is bottled at 40%, chill-filtered and E150 is added, so nothing special there.

Nose: A mixture of sweet, caramelly peat first followed by some tropical fruit/citrusy notes, orange, green apple, mango, some floral hints too, honey. Some soapiness. A bit unbalanced in my opinion.

Palate: Tangy/fruity on the arrival, relatively fresh and tropical still, wrapped in light smoky peat (not overpowering), honeyed sweetness/warmth. The peat is there but it is far from being the main feature.

Finish: Quite soft, sweet and smoky with some cold ash and barley notes but it dissipates relatively quickly.

With water: Being bottled at 40%, I would not add more than a couple of drops. Still sweet and fruity on the nose, more caramel on the palate, some lingering peat smoke, a hint of spices and still some tropical fruit, both on the palate and the finish. It does get a bit more harmonious after 15 minutes in the glass.

All in all I must admit I was rather disappointed by the Bowmore 12. I think as a starter in the world of peat, it is not a bad choice but for more discerning drinkers, I do not think it a very interesting choice... I find it a rather unbalanced dram, lacking in small batch-type quality as it taste very "mass market" in my mind. I am still to try the 15 darkest which is apparently very good (and according to rumours potentially discontinued soon...). If you want some good Bowmore, I think you need to look beyond their standard range and go more with some of their limited editions generally bottled at cask-strength such as their Tempest range (10 years old) or the very good Laimrig (15 years old finished in ex-sherry casks) which is much better value than the Devil's cask (and better!). I would love to try some independent Bowmore to see what an unaltered single cask from the distillery could be like. Pretty sure I would not be disappointed... In the meantime, I still have an unopened 12, which I think will remain like that for a while,

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