That Boutique-y Whisky Company is a small independent bottler backed by Master of Malt, a large online whisky store based near London. They produce small batch whiskies, including blends, single grains and single malts, which up until April 2016 did not carry age statements. There's no disclosure as to cask types or sizes, or the previous contents of the casks used, and not all are bottled at cask strength, so the ABV % doesn't help us guess the ages. They are also a little hard to find in Australia, and can be pretty expensive, especially considering the 500ml bottle sizes.
But the general quality does seem to be quite high, they're all non-chill filtered, and they've been quite open about the reason behind the lack of age statements. Their explanation is that because the age variance in some of the bottlings is so high, they'd be selling themselves short if they did add age statements, since they can only state the minimum / lowest age of the contents on the label. But from April 2016 their bottlings began to carry age statements, partly thanks to their support for Compass Box's campaign for transparency. That Boutique-y Whisky Company's bottlings are most easily recognised by the cartoon-style artwork on the labels, which are specific to each release.
This Bowmore bottling is from boutique-y's second batch, which was bottled at a cask strength of 49%, and there was only 292 bottles released worldwide, which isn't much at all, even taking the smaller bottles into account. So this it quite the rare bottling here. Back when it was available it retailed for around $170 AUD (and that's a 500ml bottle, remember), but very few of those 292 bottles ever made it to Australia, and they're probably long gone by now. This review comes by way of a sample from a generous fellow whisky nerd, and is both my first independent Bowmore and my first whisky from That Boutique-y. Let's get to it!
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Bowmore, NAS, 49%. Islay, Scotland.
Batch 2, cask strength, non-chill filtered. Unknown casks or colouring. 292 bottles worldwide.
Nose: Interesting, like a thick caramel with a dried-flower sweetness. That floral note is very Bowmore of course, but it's less of a sweet floral-ness than usual in this bottling. Quite a bit of spirit-y bite as well, needed more time in the glass than most. Some thick mixed berry jam, almost like I'd expect from a port cask-matured malt.
Texture: Medium-weight. Spirit-y, but not as bite-y as on the nose.
Taste: Spicy and hot chilli initially, then some of that floral sweetness from the nose. A tiny hint of peat, pepper and some more thick berry jam.
Finish: Short-medium length. Still spirit-y, plus a little oak and caramel, and a little salt. Some soft earthy peat and a little dried fruit joins in down the track.
Score: 2. 5 out of 5.
Notes: Not unpleasant, still enjoyable, but not much of a showing either. I think there's a little too much raw spirit in there which dominates and subdues everything else, and when it does fade it's taken a few victims down with it. Still, it's not my least favourite Bowmore I've had, I think I just prefer my Bowmore with a little more cask influence and perhaps some more maturity. Not necessarily age mind you, just maturity.
Not the best performance for my first boutique-y bottling really, but that's not to say others won't be brilliant. Which is both the beauty and the curse of small-batch independent bottlings!Although they're very expensive and highly sought after, there are some boutique-y bottlings of Ardbeg that sound very promising, which I'd love to get my hands on. Never say never...
Thanks to Matt for the sample, see you both again soon!