A little while back, I received a couple of interesting peaty whiskies. Due to being away a lot, I didn’t have a chance to sit down and actually try them until this past weekend, which is a shame as both are particularly intriguing.

The first is the (unfortunately, now sold-out) Bowmore Devil’s Casks, a 10 year old whisky released on a limited edition basis. I’ve no doubt you’ll be able to rustle it up at a whisky pub somewhere (if any are out there, give a shout on the comments section) and I wanted to mention it because I always find it interesting when whisky companies release something that goes a bit against traditional house style and create a product which really stands out for good or bad.

Bowmore (or generally, Morrison Bowmore, which includes Glen Garioch and Auchentoshan) has been doing this a lot this year, and I have previously discussed on here both the Glen Garioch Virgin Oak and the Auchentoshan Virgin Oak, which both come from whisky matured solely in virgin oak casks, something you don’t often see in the Scotch industry.

The Bowmore Devil’s Casks in comparison is comprised of whisky matured in first-fill ex-sherry casks. And while Bowmore does have its 15 year old Darkest edition, it otherwise does relatively little ex-sherry only cask maturation, tending to stick to either of mix of that and ex-bourbon, or solely ex-bourbon casks.

The second one I have reviewed – below – is a Highland Park 40, which was released on a very limited basis and done in conjunction with sound system company Linn, in celebration of that company’s 40th anniversary of producing its Sondek LP12 turntable. Linn made 40 handmade turntables from Highland Park whisky casks (oh, whisky and music taken to a new level!) and the whisky and turntable duo are selling for £25,000. So, yes, rather more limited edition than the Bowmore limited edition but, there you go, that’s the world of ‘limited edition’ releases!

The HP40 released with the turntable is – so far as I can tell – the same style of HP40 released in the past, which won Best New Release of the Year at the 2009 World Whisky Awards, and has been made from a selection of whiskies matured in ex-bourbon refill casks.

Here are my thoughts on each:

Bowmore Devil's Casks bottle and boxBowmore Devil’s Casks: 56.9%:

(c): Caramel flan

(n): Initially quite herbal: lots of thyme and dried mint leaves. A total surprise on the nose for sure. This is followed by dark licorice and burnt wood. With water, a lot more comes through: some apricot or peach notes (makes me think ‘orange’) along with dusty books, heather, honey and macerated cherries. There’s a real pull here between the fruitier notes and that heavy, dark presence.

(p): On first sip, this has a super thick, coating palate. It’s really dry and reminds me of herbs and Fernet Branca. With water, that oiliness and the dark, peat notes stay but are joined by burnt sugar, vanilla, candied oranges and a chili kick at the end.

(f): Chillies rolled in mint.

To conclude: it’s a rather intriguing dram from Bowmore – a very different style that is much darker and richer than the normal, American oak ex-bourbon influence one tends to find. It reminded me, at first in a small way, rather of Balcones Brimstone, if not as packed in. Definitely needs water.

Highland Park 40: 48.3%:

(c): Dark golden

(n): Wow! Lots of nice fruity notes for a whisky this age. Quite a good burn because of the higher bottling strength but it’s nice in this one. Reminds me of a chilly pub in Scotland – I’d want to drink this one there. Lots of bright pineapples and smoky cream. With water, much more is released from the glass, especially apples (both peel and apple tart); it becomes smokier too.

(p): Lemon peel, black pepper and cherries lead the palate for me without water. It’s slightly drying, as many whiskies of this age can be. The initial notes are followed by chocolate and a wash of pineapple upside down cake. With water, lots of citrussy candy notes come through: pineapple cubes and sherbet lemons. Next a nice, warming smoke and some chili spice.

(f): A pleasant, warming finish that dries enough to encourage another sip.