Bowmore catches a lot of flak already as Islay's least-appreciated, "me too" kind of distillery, and the name of this product certainly doesn't help its reputation any.

As you'll note above, Bowmore calls its 15-year expression "Darkest." And you know what? It is a pretty color. However, the various scotch detectives of the internet have discovered this particular whisky is artificially colored, so it's hard for anyone to claim bragging rights after shamelessly cheating to reach their objective. Like if someone casually mentioned that they beat Usain Bolt's 100 meter dash time, but then you found out later they did it while they were on a motorcycle. Doesn't count.

That said, this bottle's good enough that it doesn't need the posturing. What makes Bowmore the odd man out on Islay works very much in its favor here with the 15 year. The nose hints at the sheer richness on tap with chocolate, salted plum, BBQ sauce, and very soft peat. Bowmore has never been a smoke powerhouse (unlike Laphroaig), so it's not the most dominant quality you'll run into here.

This is a sterling example of how peat and sherry can work together.

I have to admit I love the taste of this. It's incredibly mocha-rich, and it rolls luxuriously around the tongue with cherry, cinnamon, and assorted baking spices. The sherry maturation gives the Bowmore 15 a knockout combination of sweet and bitter, not unlike having high-cacao dark chocolate alongside a glass of Cabernet. Meanwhile, there's just a touch of smokiness to give everything a bit of extra complexity.

Going into the finish, it's still a decadent affair. Look for rum-soaked raisins accompanied by a second wind of oak and vanilla that goes on for some time. I'll note that you could add a splash of water to the Bowmore 15 for just a little stronger touch of fresh fruit across the whole experience, but you'll mute the intensity of those wonderful chocolate flavors.

Personally, I think this is a sterling example of how peat and sherry can work together to become more than the sum of their parts. In that sense, it's very similar to the Benriach Solstice, which is a little better but about $20 or $30 more expensive. That said, where the Solstice is blackberry, the Bowmore 15 is chocolate, so there's definitely room on your shelf for both if you're feeling spendy.

High price and stupid name of this aside, it's quite tasty.

Nose: Cocoa dust, cherry, and salted plums. Sugar and spice and everything nice, for sure.
Taste: Hugely dark fruit and chocolate-forward. Only a touch of peat, making it a gentler example of what Islay has to offer.
Finish: Nicely sweet and smoky with lingering rum raisin.
Misc: 43% ABV. Sherry-matured with coloring up the wazoo.
Price: $75-90
Overall Rating