By Richard Thomas
The title “Peat Smoked Herring” just conjures a certain flavor, doesn’t it? I mean that notion of Scotch smoke meeting pungent fishiness, well, in my mind it practically screams “I’m going to out-Islay Islay.”
This Peat Smoke Herring came from a 2001 Bowmore distillation. Established in 1779, Bowmore is not just one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland, but also one of the most best-liked. Ordinary and well-known drinkers alike appreciate Bowmore. Come to think of it, I can’t ever recall meeting a self-declared Scotch aficionado who also declared they disliked what Bowmore does.
The distillery still malts its barley, a big chunk of it grown on Islay itself, in the traditional floor method, and still ferments in old fashioned wooden washbacks. Yet there is also a trace of the modern at Bowmore, who in a bit of public-minded green thinking uses waste heat from the distillery to warm the water at a nearby public swimming pool.
This particular Bowmore single cask selection from Wemyss Malts has a light straw coloring in the glass, and an oily texture on the nose. The scent is dense with creosote, but has a certain pine forest, citrus and cinnamon aspect that lends it a little crispness too.
The flavor follows along that vein: wood, ash, and cinnamon predominate, with a spoonful of citrus. The finish leaves a long and warming cinnamon afterglow that winds down into a even longer lasting ashy aftertaste.
So the whole pungent and salty aspect one might expect from anything to do with herrings wasn’t there, which makes one wonder what they were thinking at Wemyss with the name on this one. Then again, Wemyss Malts releases so many of these single casks each year that naming them must be a special kind of challenge. Even so, it’s nicely smoked and yummy.
The Wemyss Peat Smoked Herring retails for £70 ($120).