It’s always dangerous to read marketing materials before assaying the tasting of an expression, and in this case, my trepidation was well-warranted. The cardboard tube housing the nip was proudly emblazoned, “Colour: Ruby red.” Now, this reviewer is color-blind between green and red, and before pouring the Bowmore, I was tantalized at the prospects of drinking emerald-green/ruby-red spirits. Once in the glass, it became clear that the marketers at Bowmore were considerably drunker than I; the color was beautifully golden, with perhaps a tint of chartreuse. In fact, it was so richly amber that I half-expected to find a prehistoric insect embedded in my glass.
If you are willing to indulge me in a story:
…this reminds me of a time when I was finishing college. I went to a bar near campus with a friend, and at the time, I preferred a snifter of cognac or a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir, as the former hadn’t yet been discovered by rappers, and the latter hadn’t yet become a flavor-of-the-month clarion call issued by those tastemakers who lead lemming-like yuppies around by the nose. Cognac was unavailable, as were as yet undiscovered varietals such as Pinot Noir. As such, I settled on a single malt as a worthy substitute. The waitress seemed confused when I asked for scotch; perhaps she was more used to college kids ordering *shudder* pitchers of Michelob Lite or Old Milwaukee. At any rate, I eventually ascertained that my choices were Glenlivet or Glenfiddich. Based on nothing much, I selected The Glenlivet for me and my amiably agreeable friend.
When our glasses came, they seemed somewhat dusty, as if it had been a long time since anyone had ordered a scotch. We clinked, sniffed, and sipped. We held up our glasses in the dark, dank, dingy neighborhood bar to see what colors could be discerned when backlit by neon tubes perkily twisted into beer logos. As expected, not much in the way of color emerged; however, my friend spotted several gnats or fruit flies floating in his glass! When the waitress came, sullenly, to ask how our drinks were, I asked, in mock anger, why my friend had flies in his glass, and I had none in mine. (My drollery was lost on her.) We chortled while she insipidly looked at his glass, at least what could be seen. At that moment, I discovered that I, too, was a Lord of the Flies; my glass also held some small number of specimens sloshing around. No offer of a replacement drink was forthcoming, so we toasted our mutual fortune and had our embalmed protein drinks.
Nothing of the character of that evening remains, save the anecdote relayed above. This, in sharp distinction with the Bowmore Darkest, whose nose held so much butterscotch I thought I was stuck in a vat in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory that Roald Dahl neglected to mention. This, while being shaved by a Parkinson’s-afflicted barber equipped with a straight-edge razor that had been dipped in a bizarre mixture of sherry and honeysuckle nectar.
Whatever the scotch analogue of tannic structure is, the finish has it to spare. The intense peat, smoke, wood, dust, and hellfire inferno are wound tighter than the double helix of James Watson’s DNA while he was visiting Three Mile Island. Especially if, rather than Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239, Three Mile Island burnt charcoal and old barnacle-encrusted oak staves from barrels salvaged from Spanish treasure galleons sunk in the Florida Keys.
The Bowmore Darkest is like Harlan Ellison’s classic short science fiction story, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”. The nose screams, “Drink me! (If you can get out of Willy Wonka’s butterscotch vat.)” The finish screams, in a crowded movie theater, “Fire! (But enjoy The Wizard of Oz as the theater burns down.)” And yet there is not a mouth, and it is damn near as confusing as one’s first encounter with Cubist paintings.
The Bowmore Darkest 15 rates a combined Joseph Conrad/Vladimir Nabokov, which is indeed high praise. The “Darkest” invokes Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one of the many great books that high school students complain about being assigned to read. Nabokov? Lolita, of course, a few years older than 12, but still delightful at 15. “Bow-More: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of two steps down the palate to tap, at two, on the teeth. Bow. More.” (Note: Of course the tongue doesn’t actually tap the teeth while saying “More,” but fortunately despite repeated offenses of drunken deriving, my literary license hasn’t yet been revoked.)