Review: Two Ileachs from the SMWS


I am, I admit, not totally au fait with the whole Pokemon thing, but when it comes to SMWS releases of Laphroaig and Bowmore I do understand the urge to catch ’em all. Short of a lottery win, however, the financial challenges of such a task are beyond me, but let’s have a look at two recent ones that I did manage to snare.

Bowmore, SMWS 3.260 ‘Delicate perfumed sweetness’ 15yo

(Distilled 28/3/00, first fill ex-bourbon barrel, 240 bottles, 55.3%)

Nose: Am I the only one who gets a brief whiff of emulsion paint when pouring a Bowmore? Not complaining, mind. So, it’s sweet and just lightly smoky. Quite sugary, even, with an undercurrent of lavender and vanilla. (Fabric softener and Mini Milks?) A bit of blueberry jam maybe. Beyond that there is a bit of a seaside air, with some baked prawn shells.
Taste: Really sweet: Milky Ways, Caramacs and more Mini Milks! Lemon cheesecake. The smoke is lovely, soft and aromatic with a sense of a Mediterranean BBQ: pine nuts, bay leaf and oregano.
Finish: The sweetness turns to a drier smoke and lemon finish, with a nice salty tang at the end.

Laphroaig, SMWS 29.180 ‘An apothecary shop on the shore’ 16yo

(Distilled 1/7/99, refill ex-bourbon barrel, 264 bottles, 52.3%)

Nose: Writing tasting notes for Laphroaig is sometimes problematic: it’s Laphroaig. It smells and tastes Laphroaigy. So, we have iodine, samphire and driftwood in a brazier. A decent amount of citrus: candied limes, and a sort of herby lemon Mediterranean thing happening. Big Red gum and glacé cherries.
Taste: First sweet, then peat, then balance. BBQ’d meat doused in lime juice. A good bit of hospital ward.
Finish: A really lovely sense of marmalade on toasted brown bread, and then a fresher finish. Crisp green grapes and some salty nori seaweed.

One of the reasons I grouped these together is that they’re so perfectly representative of their respective styles at the mid-teens point. The Bowmore is shifting from zesty freshness to complex dry perfume; the Laphroaig has mellowed a little from the youthful in-your-face peatiness. Being representative doesn’t mean they’re typical however, and both of these are exceptionally good and highly recommended.

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