Bowmore 12 year old Enigma

Bowmore 12 year old Enigma 01Distillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Age: 12 years old
abv: 40%

Although Bowmore Enigma has been discontinued (and replaced by the likes of Black Rock, Gold Reef and White Sands), it can still be found in some specialty stores. Once a proud member of the Travel Exclusive range, Bowmore Enigma comes in a 1 litre bottle, and boasts a higher percentage of whisky that’s been aged in European oak compared to the regular 12 year old. These ex-sherry casks give this whisky a sweet, almost juicy character.

I have to admit that I’m still searching for a Bowmore expression that’s really satisfying. Maybe it’s simply not my style, but I find many of their whiskies to be a bit too shy. In fact, you don’t often hear someone proclaim that Bowmore is their favourite distillery. Peatheads will tend to go for something else, whereas in my view Bowmore simply does not compare favourably with other medium peated whiskies such as Talisker or Highland Park. But perhaps Enigma will stand out, so back to the matter at hand.

This particular Bowmore isn’t actually all that enigmatic, especially compared to many of the NAS bottlings that are currently on the market. We actually know Enigma’s age, as well as the casks it’s been matured in, which is more than can be said of  Bowmore’s current Travel Exclusive range. Then again, Enigma sure does have a mysterious ring to it, so let’s try to decipher what this whisky is all about.

Colour: Tawny

Nose: Salty and quite medicinal. Aromas of polished wood and crushed almonds give way to milk chocolate. There is an unmistakable sweet sherry dimension, but it’s fairly subdued. The nose is rather friendly, with fruity notes of orange peel and lavender.

Palate: Light bodied, with a clear coastal influence. Brine and subtle seaweed open up to an oaky character, with notes of fresh wood shavings and vanilla.  There’s a faint hint of some spices too, but they’re very much on the background.

Finish: Disappointing. The finish is simply too flat and too soft. The aftertaste is ashy with some peat smoke, but does not leave a warming sensation.

Verdict: This whisky is so sweet and soft that it feels like you’re sipping lemonade. The only problem is that I don’t want to be sipping lemonade, I want to drink whisky. Bowmore Enigma is by no means a bad dram, but it’s just not very engaging. Although there are some classic coastal, smoky notes to this whisky, they are a bit drowned out by the sweetness from the sherry cask. In many cases an additional cask finish can provide a whisky with an extra dimension, but here it only seems to distract from the positive aspects of Bowmore’s distillery character. Sad to say, the result is another underwhelming Bowmore expression. Fortunately I bought this whisky at a steep discount, but at full price I would think twice before buying Bowmore Enigma again.

Bowmore 12 year old Enigma 02

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