BOWMORE 12—The cure for post-traumatic stress

Who on earth would make a handbag out of a bear’s head?

OMG, have you SEEN this? This designer DECAPITATES innocent bears, discards their bodies, removes their grey matter and then brazenly parades around with several bear-head purses at a time, people, with not even a wisp of moral dilemma about it.

Here’s what Toshiko Shek has to say about her creations:

I never knew beheading teddy bears can be so satisfying! Heh. Basically, I behead a teddy bear, take out the stuffing, sew in a lining, re-sew the bear head, put eyelets/rivets in the ears, chain it up and there you have a teddy bear purse! I feel like I need a clever name for them and right now the only thing I can think of is “bear with me”, too cheesy? What do you think?


Holy shit, I think it’s time to get out the BOWMORE 12. It’s hard to absorb, so early in the morning, the sight of so many fuzzy compatriots guillotined in the name of fashion.

You may have been wondering about the BOWMORE 12 review. I just needed a trigger to start drinking scotch in the morning again, and these ghoulish handbags fit the bill.

One of the oldest in Scotland, Bowmore Distillery sits on the Inner Hebridean Isle of Islay, from which all the peatiest whiskies hail. Of all the Islay malts, BOWMORE 12 is reputed to be the most balanced, so I was eager to taste it for myself.

Of course I did get into it last week when our friend Robert brought the bottle over, but by the time it got opened I’d already consumed several beers and a bottle of Spanish red wine, meaning my tastebuds were as compromised as my judgment. All I remember of the BOWMORE 12 is that it was smmmmoooooooth going down. (But not coming back up, and not the next day.)

"I have only made 4 so far because it’s really hard to find decent looking big bears. But today I got lucky and found 3 more and one of them is really big!" – Toshiko Shek

So I thought I could do a more attentive tasting this morning. Still shaking from Toshiko Shek’s bear slaughter, I needed the distraction.

Ahhhhh! BOWMORE 12 is delicate gold with a honey shimmer. The nose is evocative—a cold, damp evening, low-hanging mist, iodine washing in on the nearby tide, and of course peat smoke.

The mouthfeel is heavy and rich, almost creamy and certainly oily. BOWMORE 12 coats the glass as you swirl, then makes a lingering descent down the sides. The sip? Smoooooooooooth. Honey, a vague brininess, a hint of a hint of candied orange peel encased in toffee—but far away behind the peat. As you sip, the flavors commingle, starting sweet then modulating into a deep, smoky finish. Mild tannins bring the honey and fruit into satisfying balance, making BOWMORE 12 an ideal calming drink when the soul is in morbid turmoil.

I don’t know if it’s such a bright idea to lose control drinking BOWMORE 12 when scissors-wielding fashionistas are out bear-hunting.

But I guess I’ll take my chances.

Only a drunk would forget Robbie Burns Day

And I am a drunk.

The day is almost over—a day that did not feature scotch. A bloody travesty! But I mustn’t be bitter. I have some good whisky recommendations:

I’m going to pour some Malibu and pretend it’s a nice scotch while trying to figure out this poem. (I can’t help it! We don’t have any scotch! My parents have no idea how to stock a liquor cabinet.)

To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion

Portrait by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787

Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

– Robert Burns

GLENFARCLAS 17—Come back, Christine!!!!

My Fellow Inebriates,

OMG! Help! Holy shit, humans!

I’ve been hiding out today because the six-year-old barfed in school and came home early. Needless to say, I do not wish to be the preferred stuffie right now. The washing machine scares the freaking crap out of me, and a projectile offering from Miss P would guarantee me a ride in it.

This means I have limited time to tell you about the last item from our weekend scotch-tasting threesome before the invalid gets off the couch and comes looking for cuddles.

Big thanks once again to my friend Christine for visiting with a canvas bag containing this and two other fine whiskies. When you taste two stellar whiskies—the first mind-blowing and the second only fractionally less astonishing—you almost stop breathing wondering what the third will be like.

TALISKER 18 and CAOL ILA 12 are renowned for their peatiness, making GLENFARCLAS 17 the potential oddball of the tasting triad. A Speyside single malt, GLENFARCLAS (“valley of the green grass”) is distilled using spring water from snow melt alongside the River Spey in Ballindalloch, Scotland, rather than the heavily peated water that contributes the characteristic peat-smoke flavoring to the other two I sampled.

Islay whiskey fans sometimes disparage Speyside whiskey (and vice versa) precisely because of the relative lack (or presence) of peat. Even whiskey drinkers who enjoy both regions still tend to favor one of the two styles.

Predictably I like both and suffer equal spasms over the absence from our liquor cabinet of either product. But regardless of that even-mindedness, I’d just enjoyed two peaty drams before the GLENFARCLAS 17 was poured. How would this third whiskey compare?

In the glass, GLENFARCLAS 17 shines a rich coppery amber, with detectable oiliness around the edges. On the nose: a surge of sherry, abundant but contained, and apple-butter with vanilla-butterscotch behind—a perfectly modulated chorus with an oak backbone and distant peat.

The sip is weighty and full, developing with a sensuous pace, the sherry-malt tones mellowing across the tongue into bakery-spice notes and lingering smoke. This whiskey dries noticeably on the tongue, masterfully balanced and complex, with an almost endless finish.

Not with scotch, people.

Some whiskey aficionados, especially Islay fans, might accuse Speyside whiskies of being comparatively simple—but only after burning off their tastebuds with Wonka SweeTarts in the company of an ailing six-year-old.

Adding water might enable the drinker to pick out its individual flavors with heightened precision, but dilution seems an unimaginable crime, and I couldn’t bring myself to try it. Of the three whiskies savored that night, GLENFARCLAS 17 was my favorite, and when Christine left the house with it, I pressed my nose against the window, vibrating with horror and sorrow.

Come back, Christine. Please come back.