At the start of 1985, a large group of musicians got together to sing a song that aimed to help raise money for millions of people in Africa. Also that year, teen classic film The Breakfast Club was released. Those aforementioned musicians reunited for the rather large Live Aid in the summer, and by the end of the year, Back to the Future, Out of Africa and The Colour Purple had all taken the cinemas by storm.
But also in that year, at the Bowmore distillery on Islay – possibly during a wind-swept, rain-filled day when nothing else in the world mattered but the whisky making going on within its four walls – a whisky was put to bed, to sleep the years away in a snug cask. Like a caterpillar going into a cocoon, the whisky worked and danced its way to completion.
This whisky is now – all these years later – sat beside me on my desk in London. Amazing isn’t it to think this same process is going on all over Scotland (and Ireland, and England, and Wales, and…ohhh…all over the world) right at this instant. That thousands more barrels are being filled, are capturing moments in time for generations down the line to reminisce about. Rather romantic eh?
But, I digress.
This new Bowmore is a part of the company’s limited vintage range. Made from a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, only 747 cask strength (52.3%) bottles of the 1985 will hit the shelves. Each will be hand-signed and numbered by distillery manager Eddie MacAffer and cost £300.
The whisky is a golden honey colour – a lovely balance hinting at both the richer colours from a sherry cask and the light blonde of a bourbon barrel.
It’s wonderful on the nose – notes of pear, lemon, cedar wood, stewed cherries and a sweeter smoke (like hickory chips) flutter around as soon as it’s poured.
The palate confuses at first – initially I am struck by an almost sweet-shop flavouring, something along the lines of sugary strawberry laces before a slightly acrid smoke hits mid-way through. But on second sip, there are more notes of pears and apples, and a sort of chargrilled pineapple – a sweet smoke pervades for sure. At the end, it’s all parma violets and perfumed soap. The smoke is very well balanced, doesn’t overextend itself and sits long on the tongue.
It’s an enjoyable dram, most certainly – if not only for its balance but also for its history. That – like many whiskies – can be one of the most beautiful things about any dram. This one – at £300 – captures the years beautifully and makes me nostalgic for all things 1985!