Bowmore 30 1989 The Kinship Collection 2020 Hunter Laing

What was the occasion: I got bling whisky and I’m Hamad, no cap.

I have no idea what I just wrote, Jesus I gotta start acting my age… wait, my entire generation has Peter Pan syndrome, there is no way to act my age.

I purchased a sample set of The Kinship Collection 2020 from Hunter Laing that was released for Feis Ile 2020. It’s an expensive set that’s released as part of the biggest Scotch festival by an independent bottler. It has some very old, rare whiskies as part of it. That seems like fun, so when I have time (and am not on pain medication for my broken leg), I’ve been reviewing them.

What whisky did we review? Bowmore 30 The Kinship Collection 2020 Hunter Laing, an 80s Bowmore single cask bottled at cask strength as part of the collection.

What’s the distillery? Bowmore is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, starting in the 18th century. They are now owned by Beam Suntory, which also owns Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch, as well as bourbon brands like Beam and Japanese brands like Yamazaki.

Bowmore releases quite a few original bottlings, some NAS, some non-NAS. I have found IBs of Bowmore goes through ebbs and flows of supply, and I’d argue that I haven’t seen as many young ones recently, and more and more older releases that pop up (more on that later).

There’s a split view on Bowmore for whisky fans, with it being one of the more polarising whiskies I read about.

What’s my bias? When I have a Bowmore I have to bring up what I call “The Bowmore Problem”, or as I’ve called it before “The Auchentoshan Problem”, or “The Bowmore Disease”. I don’t want to give you an idea that Bowmore somehow is tainted, so I changed the term from disease to problem.

What is that? Simply put, Bowmore tastes a lot worse when you dip below 50% Abv. Same with Auchentoshan, and I’d argue there’re other distilleries with this problem. This is made worse when you offer to pour a cask strength Bowmore to a whisky fan who has only had lower abv. Bowmores. They will look at you like you’re nuts.

In addition, Bowmore from a certain era (80s to early 90s) has a term used to describe it: French Whore Perfume, or FWP. Now I believe wholeheartedly that this was meant to describe the intense floral flavour you can get in whiskies from this period from Bowmore, not to be jingoistic (mocking the French) or belittle sex workers as real workers (the use of the term whore).

That said, I understand it can reinforce these views, and won’t be using that term moving forward. You can do what you want, I’m doing this my way. No one called me out, I’m making this decision myself after thinking about it for a while.

I’ll instead refer to this as an intense floral note moving forward as “Spicy Flower Water”.

And that’s my lengthy way of saying that I see a vintage 80s/early 90s Bowmore, I want my spicy flower water, dammit. So let’s see if I can throw fireballs and have red overalls after drinking this, shall we?

Price: $8K for all 6 bottles (CAD)

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1989

Bottled: 2020

Number of bottles: 256

Abv: 58%

Colour: 10YR 7/10

Nose: Demerara sugar, lilacs, Fun Dip, smoked peanuts, lemon tarts

No flowers? Start the riot, I still have my pitchfork out after some warlocks living near the sea did a dumb thing.

Wait… No, wait… There’s a slight, lighter floral note. It’s not super heavy, but it’s there, and it’s closer to a sweet, floral note. Maybe think proper Turkish Delight (from Turkey, not the junk we get outside the country 99% of the time).

And there’s smoke still, but it’s nuttier and brown sugar/molasses like. Also there’s an element of butter. Now we’re talking, all hail the return of complexity in an expensive whisky. For this set at least.

Taste: Cinnamon spread, mud, brine, mint chocolate pudding, blue candy

Creamy, spicey, lots of mud and chocolate to this, along with salt. My wife recently ordered a chocolate mousse with maldon salt on it and this has that similar feel, albeit with a lighter sweetness versus a richness that can be a bit much.

Oddly less floral again, but has the light sugar notes from before. And by “blue candy”, I mean whatever blue candy you had in your country. Mind was hard candies, I’m pretty sure I ate enough that my lifespan has been impacted in a meaningful way, and the only way I can describe it is “fake blue”.

Finish: Chocolate pudding, smoke, caramel, Fun Dip, hops, violets

Creamy, more chocolate (peated whiskies can be big chocolate bombs after many years in the cask), some raw smoke and caramel, as well as a return of floral/sweet notes.

Conclusion: Light, smoke, a bit floral. Not as overly floral as previous 80s Bowmores, but less overt and more likely to be enjoyable for more people. Did I find my SFW? No, this is slightly NSFW, and has more peat than I expected.

There are releases of older Bowmores from this era that are literally called “Violets” or “Perfume” or the sheer amount of SMWS releases that probably say something like “All the Flowers your ex gave you on Fire” or something as dramatic.

Let’s be honest, I’m just jealous they are upstaging me.

Should you buy this whisky? If you like floral whisky and peated whisky, yes. It’s the weird missing link between Bowmores that taste like a botanical garden and Bowmores that taste like said garden was burned because they needed a parking lot. It’s not as super floral as others, it’s very interesting, and chocolate fans will go super nuts for it.

How does it hold up so far as a group with the three whiskies from The Kinship Collection 2020 Hunter Laing? This is the best yet. I think there are going to be fans of the other two distilleries that will skip this one, and frankly adding it in is gutsy because it’s totally different from other Islay whiskies, given the floral aspects.

This is the first I’d personally buy by itself, if I could. But I like floral Bowmore, so here we are.


Scotch review #1627, Islay review #427, Whisky Network review #2355

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