I feel a little cheated by the Bowmore Darkest. Per the website “…it’s the final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks that gives Bowmore 15 Years Old ‘Darkest’, one of the most beautifully balanced Bowmores, the rich, deep colour reflected in its name…” It’s whole marketing schtick is that it’s the darkest of the Bowmore’s, due to it’s sherry barrel finishing, but here’s the catch. They add e150a caramel coloring to the whisky.
Here in the USA they don’t have to disclose that info, but in places like Denmark and Germany they do and that’s how we know that this is a colored whisky. Which, to me, feels a lot like cheating (or lying if you prefer) when you talk about the sherry finishing making it so dark and then proceed to dump coloring into it.
What’s really interesting about this is that when placed side by side with the Bowmore Devil’s Casks which, by all accounts I could find, has no coloring added they are almost the exact same color. If anything the Devil’s Casks is a shade darker. Knowing that the Devils Casks is aged in 100% first fill sherry casks this leads me to one conclusion.
The Bowmore Darkest is likely finished in mostly second or third fill sherry casks with just enough first fill casks to give it that sherried flavor and darker color. This use of re-used barrels would cause it to be lighter than it looks in the bottle so they added the caramel coloring to make it look like more first fill casks were used than actually were so they can then tack on a premium.
Bowmore Darkest Review
Age: 15 years (12 years in bourbon barrels, finished 3 years in Oloroso sherry casks)
Ruddy copper (E150a)
Sherry, peat, wood, iodine and vermouth make up the bulk of the nose which is the best part of this whisky. Hanging out beneath those are lighter notes of vanilla, raisins, dried fruit, a moldering hay like maltiness, a touch of caramel and a smoked sausage quality. It all sounds great, but it’s muted and ends up coming across as a watered down version of a good sherried whisky.
Like the nose, the palate comes across like a watered down version of something amazing. It leads with notes of smoky peat, a dark fruity sweetness, caramel, sweet red vermouth, brine and iodine. Some muggy notes of smoked meat, cinnamon, baking spices, citrus and ash hang out in the back.
A long bitter, tarry and resinous journey of sweet vermouth, sherry, peat, wood and ash.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Doesn’t quite feel balanced with flavors and aromas clashing a bit. The medium body and slick oily texture are nice, but not enough to completely save it.
Marketing nonsense aside, it’s an ok whisky. It’s not amazing by any means, but there’s enough smoky peat and sherry sweetness from nose to finish to keep things interesting for a bit. Though when you start contemplating it the cracks start to show and it comes across as something that was once promising, but has been watered down and tamed. Is it complete garbage? No. Is it worth it’s price? No, but if a nicely sherried smoky whisky is what you’re looking for I’d spent the extra $8 and pick up the Talisker Distiller’s Edition instead.