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Bowmore

Bowmore 15 years Darkest (70cl 43%)

€73.92 $86.07 £65.99

Chocolate

Cocoa, cream, coffee beans

“Scotch and Chocolate” is the name of an instrumental piece from the American bluegrass band Nickel Creek. Bluegrass musicians generally know a thing or two about whisky, and right enough, the two are natural pairings (that goes both for Scotch and chocolate and for whisky and bluegrass!) - not least because many Scotch whiskies themselves have flavours that can be compared to chocolate, whether it be the creaminess of milk chocolate or the richness and coffee-bean-like bitterness of dark chocolate.

Chocolatey flavours are often the result of sherry-cask maturation, much like dried fruit - indeed, the two flavours often go together, as with the classic Macallans or Glendronachs. In particular, younger whiskies - especially blends - containing a proportion of sherry-matured malt often have an overtly sweet milk-chocolate character; older malts often become richer and more bitter, with dark chocolate or coffee notes. Dalmore is an excellent example of the latter, while a lighter style is key to the appeal of the underrated islander Tobermory.

The rich and heavy sweet flavours encapsulated by this flavour profile are often the result of the charring of oak casks, which produces compounds known as lactones (so named because of their similarity, in terms of flavour, to dairy products). It is therefore entirely consistent that the creamy, buttery characteristics of this flavour are often associated with bourbon: the new wood which gives bourbon its particular character provides strong chocolatey flavours, represented in Scotland by Glen Garioch Virgin Oak or Auchentoshan Virgin Oak; Talisker Storm is another good example, where freshly-charred rejuvenated casks provide a buttery, bourbon-like mouthfeel missing from the refill-cask-matured 10-year-old.

Chocolatey flavours are an obvious complement to the more dairy-like or milky elements of certain cigar styles - Rafael Gonzales or Hoyo de Monterrey would be good pairings, for example.

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Dried Fruit

Raisins, figs, fruitcake, red grape, candied fruit

While flavours of fresh fruits such as apple, citrus or berries may be the result of ex-bourbon cask maturation, dried fruit flavours in single malt are almost exclusively due to extensive sherry-cask influence. Sherry casks, especially those made from European Oak (very much the minority today) lend whisky bold and robust flavours: the high acidity and lower alcohol content of sherry (in comparison to bourbon) bring out more of the flavour from the wood, giving the whisky notes of rich dried fruit and spice. In addition, the fact that sherry casks are generally larger than bourbon barrels (250 - 300 litres for a Hogshead or 500 litres for a butt, in comparison to 200 litres for a barrel) means that there is a slower maturation process: the more time the alcohol has to break down the flavour compounds present in the wood, the more oxygen becomes available to react with the spirit via oxidation; this results in more complex flavours including tobacco, spice, and a rich but sweet fig-like flavour. Raisins and fruit cake are common tasting notes, but younger (and therefore sweeter) whiskies may also present red grape, candied papaya or dried banana chips.

Due to their association with sherry casks, dried fruit flavours are most common in Speyside whiskies which make extensive use of this cask type. Many distilleries in this region have made sherry cask maturation their trademark: most notably Macallan, but also Aberlour, Glenfarclas and cult favourites Glendronach and Longmorn. The scarcity of sherry casks and legendary status of the aforementioned malts has driven up the price tag of this style, but those in the know keep close tags on where to find the best “sherry bomb” deals.

The dry, rich characteristic of this set of flavours means it pairs well with the toasty flavours present in some styles of cigar: Macallan and Cohiba, considering the prestige of each brand, are a natural couple, but dried fruit sherry bombs are also likely to pair well with the likes of Ramon Allones or Trinidad, and the leathery tang of a Montecristo is another good companion.

 

Peat

Smoke, barbecue, medicine, farmyard aromas

By far the most polarising of all whisky flavours - and in some ways, that most distinctive of Scotch whisky. Peat is a type of fossil fuel, halfway between soil and coal, which produces a very aromatic smoke as it burns, and is widespread in the Scottish Highlands and islands. It has long been used to dry out malted barley in preparation for making whisky…and the aroma of the smoke lingers throughout the whole distillation process and the subsequent years of maturation.

The resulting flavour is often described as “medicinal” - associated with disinfectants such as TCP, especially by its detractors. Those who enjoy the flavour may be more likely to compare it to the scent of a barbecue, or a welcoming fireplace on a cold winter night.

Peat is almost universally associated with the Islay region - although some Islay whiskies have no peat, while many non-Islay whiskies do. As the flavour derives from the malted barley rather than the cask, it is generally more upfront in younger whiskies than in older expressions, where the cask has had more time to influence the overall style - this is why most Islay whiskies, renowned for their peaty flavours, are bottled at 10 or 12 years with relatively little spirit kept for older ages (Lagavulin is a notable exception). The most notorious of peaty whiskies is probably Laphroaig, while the crown of the “world’s peatiest whisky” is held by Bruichladdich’s Octomore series. At the other end of the scale, those flavours produced by relatively light peating levels are described by the earth flavour tag.

Because of the distinctiveness and the sheer intensity of peaty flavours, they can be difficult to pair with cigars: generally, the fuller-flavoured the cigar, the more likely it is to complement an intensely peaty whisky. In this sense, Bolivar, Partagas and certain Cohibas are safe choices. You may like to experiment a little more and try other cigars that are marked by flavours of leather, pepper or toast, however.

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Like that first sweet waft of anticipation on opening a bar of chocolate. “Darkest” has long been part of the Bowmore range, but it is in...read more

Product Info

Like that first sweet waft of anticipation on opening a bar of chocolate. “Darkest” has long been part of the Bowmore range, but it is in recent years, since acquiring a 15-year age-statement, that it has truly flourished into the exemplary dram it is today. Its sherry “finish” is in fact a whole two to three years (“finishes” are more commonly measured in months), and it is abundantly clear that that time has not been wasted. Raisins, dark chocolate, treacle toffee; yes…but also so much more. Imagine the most indulgent chocolate pudding, or perhaps just chocolate syrup gulped straight from the bottle, all accompanied by plumes of Scotch Mixture pipe tobacco smoke. There is a dominant note of resin throughout - any violin player will recognise it immediately - with wholemeal toast forming the gentle, dense and murky peat smoke; cigar-box cedar wood and the tannins of the sherry, with just a touch of the sea air and, of course, simply delicious thick cocoa and black coffee with generous measures of caramel syrup. It tastes like a mild, wet foggy summer night by the sea. It tastes like steering a fishing vessel into harbour at midnight, with the flags gently fluttering in the breeze and the water lapping against the bow. It’s a night-time whisky, for sure; and a calmer, gentler one than many of its stormier Islay neighbours. But immensely more rewarding, and utterly unique. I’m sure I’m not the only one with many very fond memories associated with this defining single malt. Any fans of Macallan who are looking for a stepping stone into Islay - or, indeed, Islay fans looking to get into Speyside - will find this indispensable…but for anyone at all to pass this up would be their loss.

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Robert Graham uses reputable courier services and we ship worldwide. Within the UK we aim to deliver within 2 working days. International delivery times vary depending on destination. After your purchase has been processed, you will receive an email notification with your delivery tracking number.

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Note: Regrettably we cannot ship cigars or any other tobacco products to the USA and Canada.

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