The Devil is Back….In the Casks: Bowmore Devil’s Casks II

After yesterday’s short break to taste the first Israeli single malt whisky, it’s back to drams I tasted at TWE’s London Whisky Show:

I guess nobody at Bowmore read the endearing “I Capture the Castle” by Dodi Smith where she states that “The Devil’s out of fashion“, because at Bowmore, the devil is very much in fashion….big time!!

On paper, this is another first fill sherry bomb bottled at cask strength (think A’bunadh, GlenDronach CS or the Glengoyne CS). While priced on the higher end of that class of expressions (£65 vs. £40-£55) it was clearly meant to be a batch release to fit in that (very successful) class of whiskies. So the whisky people at Bowmore did their thing and produced a beautiful first fill sherry cask expression, and the marketing people at Morrison-Bowmore Distillers did their thing, and referencing the round church in Bowmore, built so the devil will have nowhere to hide, forcing him into the distillery to hide in a cask, named this release “The Devil’s Casks” and produced only 6660 bottles.

By Fakirbakir (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Fakirbakir (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know it it’s the whisky, the reasonable price or the story, but when the first batch was released last year, it sold out in minutes, and the second batch was no different. At the whisky show, by the way, the Devil’s Casks was finished by the time I got down to the Bowmore stand on the first day, and had to come in bright and early to taste the second day’s allocation. So far so good, but here’s where the story gets ugly.

The batches are very small (the entire UK market got only 540 bottles), the bottles are highly coveted, and that makes for an open invitation for auction flipping. Bottles of the first batch have sold for as high as £320 (see here) with prices moving steadily up from the £145 commanded in the early auctions following the release. I’ve been thinking about my position on auctions quite a bit lately and have come to the conclusion that a secondary market is inevitable, and is even an important vehicle to allow whisky lovers to find expressions they want to own. However, in high demand times like ours, they tend to fuel the inflationary trends, as producers see the “true market value” of their product and aim to keep as much of that margin in house. This, in turn, pushes prices even higher and “silly money” starts entering the game. Thus, now, a mere few weeks after the official release of the second batch, stores in Europe are selling it for €250 (and this is even before it hit the auctions).

Talk about hot stuff….

But you must want to know what I thought of the liquid:

Bowmore Devil’s Casks II – 2014 (56.3% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Deep bronze, with slow forming thin legs.

Nose: This is complex! First comes the dirty tarry damp peat, then the sweet sherry and the signature Bowmore deep tropical fruit (mango, passion fruit and guava). Under all that, there’s a deeper smoky peat. After some time in the glass meat with thick Texas BBQ sauce and mesquite wood smoke. The addition of water brings out the “Bowmore” inside – more tarry peat and more of those tropical fruit. Time with the water brings forth gentle spices like cinnamon and clove.

Palate: Sweet sherry follows immediately by the dark tropical fruit. Very mouth drying with sweet and bitter notes battling for dominance.

Linger: Very long and dry on the palate, leaving the mouth waxy with ash on the tongue. This is a very warming dram.


I’m not a huge Bowmore fan, but this Dram is particularly good. It’s complex, interesting and very layered, making the signature Bowmore-y taste enjoyable.

I wouldn’t pay €250 for it, but if you can get it for its release price (good luck with that….) it’s a very worthy dram!


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