This whisky is ridiculous. There are few whiskies on the market aged entirely in port casks, and even fewer that spent a total of twenty-three years in port casks. Don't get me wrong, port cask finishings have become a "thing" in the last decade; that's when a whisky is primarily aged in more readily available (cheaper) American oak, and spends a few months to a few years in port casks. However, a whisky aged entirely in port casks for twenty-three years? Damn.
Port casks are used to make port wine, and port wine is essentially a wine with an added spirit during the fermentation process. It's thick and sweet. Scotch aged in port wine will typically take on rich dried fruit and cinnamon notes. Because of the heaviness of port finishes, scotches that spend just a short amount of time in port casks take on a rich set of flavors.
So yes, this scotch was aged the entire twenty-three years in port casks. The things to love about Bowmore 23 is that it's bottled at a respectful proof of 50.8%, it's non-chill-filtered, and it's not a polite whisky. It hits you with flavor and booziness.
However, the price of Bowmore 23 makes it out of reach. If you're fortunate enough to have the income to make this an affordable purchase, it makes a great buy and a fantastic gift.
Bowmore 23 Years Aged (Distilled 1989 & Bottled 2013)
Single Malt Scotch, Lightly Peated
Nose: Not all old whiskies have an old barrel nose, but this one does. It's the wine cellar start, with dust and dried fruit, and some yeast from nearby. Cinnamon and butter are next; similar to a pastry recently baked and sprinkled with cinnamon. What I really enjoy about the nose is the way the light smoky peat note mixes in with the cinnamon spice sweetness. It's rich with dried fruit, and butter sweetness.
Palate: Rich and not gentle, which isn't a surprise considering the 50.8% ABV. It starts with the smooth rich European barrel notes such as dried fruit, and honey, and plenty of cinnamon spice. Liquorice takes over next, pepper spice, more cinnamon, oily and butter smooth.
Whisky Cabinet Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original
Some of the big single malt scotch brands bottle old scotches at near 40% ABV and call it a day. This is high-proof, non-chill-filtered, and blended for character. If you're about the taste of the whisky, you're less likely to be rewarded with this purchase. The nose is absolutely beautiful, though, making this whisky a cherished pours. If you enjoy nosing a whisky for twenty minutes before even taking a sip, this won't disappoint. It's difficult to recommend a whisky that's several hundred dollars. There are a lot of great whiskies for much cheaper, but if several-hundred dollars is the equivalent to most people's hundred dollar whisky, this is a great buy.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Bowmore for providing me with a bottle of this whisky to share at the annual heel party. I managed to save the last few ounces for the purposes of this review. It had no baring on my score. You can also listen to me taste this whisky live on episode 81 of The Whisky Topic.