Review: SMWS 3.243 Dark, Smouldering Flamenco Gypsy

Sunday, May 10, 2015


When the Scotch Malt Whisky Society made contact, my initial thoughts were what have I done this time? Did I misbehave the last time I was in their Queen Street branch, or was I too loud in their dinky London outpost? 

It turns out to celebrate the impending Feis Ile 2015 razzmatazz the Scotch Malt Whisky Society decided to bottle one of their own, as well as throwing a bash at Islay House. I was kindly sent the sample pictured above for further Whisky Rover analysis.   

Now I'm always glad to do this, when I can, even if it is from Bowmore distillery. You see I find Bowmore the most frustrating of producers; capable of greatness with bygone bottlings yet in the recent era content with mediocrity. I'm so frustrated by it; friends mention the distillery at their peril in my vicinity as it prompts a rant, much sighing and arm waving in annoyance. Bowmore should be doing much better.

Take for instance the recent Bowmore Black Rock; far too much caramel, or the recent Bowmore Small Batch; vile and an insult to the distillery. Yet this is a distillery with the most enjoyable tour I've experienced and some of my fondest whisky moments. The SMWS do bottle Bowmore on a frequent basis so my expectations are that they've kept something special for this Feis Ile event. Lets get down to business:



Distillery: Bowmore
Distilled: 25th September 1997
Bottled: April 2015 (17 years old)
Cask: refill ex-sherry butt
Strength: 57.1% vol
Outturn: 594 bottles
Price: £120 (non-members), £80 (members)

Colour: a bronzed elephant that sits beside my fireplace

Nose: a real thickness on the nose with rich flavours such as treacle tart, pencil shavings, an old bookcase stuffed full of worn leather books and hand stitched journals, aged balsamic, shiitake mushrooms and that touch of peat. 

Taste: water is certainly required here to truly really appreciate 3.243. Absurd richness with sticky plum jam, a touch of ash and that molten chocolate centre in a great soufflé.  I'm trying to get Heinz brown sauce out of my head but its proving difficult with these spices! We're back onto the dessert course with Tiramisu in an enjoyable way (I dislike coffee) and Coca Cola marinated spare ribs rounding off a twisted Islay journey.

This is a very enjoyable example of a sherry matured Bowmore. I'd hope the bottle-your-own option at the distillery is along similar lines. Well priced and in reality I hope the SMWS has a couple of sister casks as given further maturation this could be absolutely fantastic. As it stands currently it is excellent but with those additional years the unnecessary alcoholic edge would be smoothed into a harmonious existence.

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