Another edition of whisky showdown and quite an interesting matchup if I do say so myself. Two 12 year olds known for being smoky and peaty, the Bowmore 12 is a reliable standby and the Caol Ila 12 has its own devout following.
Time to get started.
As soon as they are poured in their respective glasses, the first distinction between them becomes clear. The Bowmore, with its rich gold complexion, makes the Caol Ila seem pale and lifeless. On looks alone, one would assume the Bowmore offers an experience as rich as its appearance. Luckily for us, just as with litterature, one cannot judge a whisky on looks alone.
On the nose, both are lightly smokey and peaty. The major distinction between the two on this level would be the apple and pineapple on the Bowmore against what I can only describe as a very ripe fig and lemon from the Caol Ila. The fig was not evident the first time I tried the Caol Ila, contrasting it against the Bowmore brings it out very nicely. Both are thus sweet on the nose, but possess different expressions of the trait.
On the palate, the wood, smoke, and peat shine on the Bowmore. The smokiness you remember from firewood being brought in from the cold and quickly thrown upon the fire is distinct. Quite satsifying and comforting on a cool evening. The Caol Ila is smoother, less smoky but more peaty. The banana flavour is obvious, especially contrasted with the Bowmore’s pineapple. Caol Ila mixes in sweet tones of honey, unlike the Bowmore which retains a more cabin in the woods type feeling.
The finish is also quite distinct from one to the other. The Bowmore 12 is dry. Smoke and wood and peat, and bitter dark chocolate. The Caol Ila is all about a sweet finish.
Both are good, both have their purpose. If I were to be forced to choose the victor, I would go for the Caol Ila on the finish alone. Personal preference, I enjoy a nice sweet finish. The rest is a tossup as both are accomplished products. Iprefer the Bowmore on a cool late summer evening such as tonight, however. The smoke and wood are comforting.
Hope that helps in your future tasting endeavours.