Whisky Advocate

Review: Bowmore Tempest (Second Release)

May 12th, 2011

Bowmore Tempest (Second Release), 10 year old, 56%, $100

The first Tempest to be imported to the U.S. Aged exclusively in first-fill bourbon casks. With the bourbon cask, and relatively young age, you can really feel all the Islay love. Bracing, with plenty of sea character, along with honeyed vanilla, citrus, floral notes (especially lavender), rumbling peat smoke, tobacco, and resinous oak on the finish.  A bit steep in price for a 10 year old, but very dynamic.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

54 Responses to “Review: Bowmore Tempest (Second Release)”

  1. Texas says:

    uh..yeah a bit steep. 2X the price of Laphroaig Cask Strength. Geez.

  2. Luke says:

    A lovely dram, but $100.00?! Very stiff!

    Despite penal excise duty and taxes here in Ireland I can get this for €50.00 a bottle.

  3. Red_Arremer says:

    I know a retailer who basically decided not to sell this stuff because he felt the price was too high. Remember a few years back when Bowmore did all those great finishes (I loved the Bordeaux one, which I think was Dusk) @ 50%– They were only 50$ a pop. And that’s a real price not a RRP. I would love to try this though.

    Another perspective. How come no one complained about the price on that PC7 single cask from yesterday? Is it just because Bowmore is “mainstream” and Bruichladdich is “alternative”?

    • Mark says:

      I had my post complaining about the PC7 price written up and ready to go, but I canceled it at the last minute b/c I thought maybe no one likes a complainer. I guess I’m not alone!

      Costs may have gone up for producers in the past few years, but I think they’re getting pretty crazy with pricing. I just bought a liter bottle of Bowmore Cask Strength in the Barcelona airport duty free (aka world travel retail) for 43 euro! Sure it’s probably less than 10 years old, but still.

      • Red_Arremer says:

        Know how that feels Mark– I always have comments all written up and then can them for one reason or another. Ironically its usually the ones that I spend the longest on that get canned cause I feel I’m not getting them just right and I have to go do something else. The ones that show up are the ones I just dash off– which probably isn’t the best thing…

      • Mary says:

        Mark: You should always be free to “complain” as long as it’s constructive & not personal. We (whisky buying public) count on you to remain truthful & unbiased even if the news is not positive. If you only write the “good”, you lose credibility.

    • Louis says:

      Red,

      Park Ave. Liquors isn’t an inexpensive store. Their Jefferson Select 18 is also 1/3 above the typical ‘street price’. But these are handpicked casks, so you always have the option to get the standard bottle elsewhere.

      Slainte.

      Louis

      • David D says:

        I’ve never been allowed to choose my own cask of Jefferson’s and I’ve never known another retailer who has either. It’s always take what you get. They offer it to you and you can say “yes” or “no.” Park Ave may be special though. I don’t know.

        • Ryan says:

          That’s interesting and terribly disappointing all at once. Sucks the romance right out of the concept of retail exclusives knowing that JPS 18′s bottler has entirely determined any retailer’s take-it-or-leave-it choice. On top of repeatedly erroneously designating many months worth of various single barrel retail exclusives with an unexpected batch number and offering no explanation (to most retailers) of that batch#/single barrel discrepancy. And yes, I’ve heard they switched bottlers and had an issue, but repeatedly botching the labels of their own single barrel bottlings–when they’re an independent bottler that doesn’t even do their own bottling–is equally disappointing. Enthusiasm waning.

          As to Tempest… yeah, too expensive.

  4. two-bit cowboy says:

    Here’s another “not available in [my state]” expression. Oh well. I’m not a Bowmore fan anyway.

    Red_A: I’d expect there to be a great deal of difference between this standard bottling and yesterday’s single cask PC-7.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Probably not crazy about the lavender notes huh, two-bit?

      Actually, I’ve been known to shell out for young expensive Bruchladdies (Octomore) more often than other brands… Was just wondering how others felt.

      • two-bit cowboy says:

        I’ve never dissected what it is about Bowmore that doesn’t work for me, but there’s something there that doesn’t appeal. I’ll have an opportunity to give Bowmore 18 a try tonight and will give it a fighting chance.

        Tried ‘laddie PC-8 last night — pretty darned good. And, yeah, Octomore is in a class all its own.

  5. ps says:

    uh oh, I thought Bowmore had veered away from the “lavender”.

  6. mongo says:

    i like the tempest a lot, but at this price it’s a lot cheaper to have it shipped from the u.k.

  7. Louis says:

    It dooesn’ cost any more to send the Tempest over here than Mclennans. I love Bowmore, but I too will have to pass at this price. Bad timing, just as gas is back over $4/gallon.

  8. Matt J says:

    while we’re speaking of pricing, the Hart Bros Laphroaig 18 is significantly higher than the OB, too.

    I’m not a big enough fan of Bowmore to drop a C note on a 10 year old (says the guy who shells out $70 for a 6 year old Handy)

    • Louis says:

      When adjusted for proof, that still comes out to around a 50% price differential. And the TH is darn good stuff.

  9. mongo says:

    this *is* a different bowmore than most of the ob’s available easily in the u.s: it is cask strength; it is all from first fill bourbon (unlike the sherry-bourbon mix of most of the line); it’s a limited release. so a bit of a premium for those features is fine. but somewhere between $60-75 is probably where it should be.

  10. Mary says:

    I’m officially joining the “the Bowmore is too d**n high” party! $100? Crazy, when there are too many other good/better/equal whiskies below that price.

  11. Texas says:

    Although I could not afford it if they did..if every 10 year old Cask Strength Islay cost $90+ then I would not have an issue with the $100..however IMO Laph CS is the standard for cask strength Islays and most places it is half that. So really, the pricing doesn’t even make sense from a competitive standpoint. heck even Ardbeg Uigedail is considerably less than $100 most places.

    Do the people that set prices even both to notice what is going on with most people’s pocketbooks these days??

    • H.Diaz says:

      I agree with Texas. Laphroaig 10y/o is an excellent choice for standard Islay cask strength. For approx. $50 it’s a great buy. And the Ardbeg Uigedail is up there too, about $65 over here.

      Speaking of young Islay whiskies and pricing, I just scored Douglas Laing’s Big Peat 8y/o vatted Islay malt for $55. A few months ago it was priced at $90. Not sure why the big drop in price, but I would have never pulled the trigger at $90.

      • H.Diaz says:

        Big Peat does not have an age statement. Mixed up with another Douglas Laing bottling.

  12. MARS says:

    In europe, the bowmore tempest is a cheap whisky. I paid my bottle of batch one 36€ (that’s about 45$).
    It’s still available at +-40€.
    Given the succes of the batch one (it is a very good peaty/fruity whisky with well integrated alcohol), the price is logically going up. About 45€/50€ a bottle (65/70$ a bottle).
    Somebody hope to win a lot of money at selling it at 100$!

  13. John Hansell says:

    I am beginning to think (fear) that we are seeing the beginning of $100, 10 year old whisky (for cask strength whisky, anyway). We won’t know for a while. Time will tell.

    • mongo says:

      if that’s true i feel confident that that’s one trend the market will quickly correct. your average punter is not going to spend $100 on any whisky that has a 10 year age statement on it. and aficionados are going to be sceptical. hell, i wouldn’t buy the laph cs (which i love) as often as i do if it were $100 (or close).

  14. Dave Baxter says:

    So it’s still a relatively good deal here in Calgary then? $82 at KWM :)

    • portwood says:

      This is one of the very RARE occasions where a whisky is cheaper in Ontario than in Alberta and the USA. We have it here for Cdn$73.95!!!!!!!!!

  15. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    Tempest first release is about 43.- € in Germany.

    100 bucks is crazy.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  16. Bill says:

    I tried a glass of this at Keen’s Steakhouse. Best Bowmore I’ve had (though I’ve not had many, given the expense), but not good enough for me to spend $100 on a bottle of it, esp. when I know I can have a bottle shipped from the UK for less.

    John, I wonder if you might shed some light in a future post on what’s behind some of the mark-ups we see here in the US. I wrote a complaint in a thread a while back showing how the percentage of the markup on the price of Springbanks went up dramatically as you went up the list of their standard expressions from the 10 yo (not unreasonable) to the 18 yo (outrageous). If the percentage of the markup was the same across the board I’d just right it off to tariffs or whatever, but the disparity would seem to point to something or someone else. I can hunt for it and re-post it….

    In related, one wonders at the recent drop in the cost of Laphroaig 18 around NYC. It started out at around $140 more or less everywhere but is now down to $100. (As a point of reference, until recently the 15 yo, which many prefer to the 18, could be found for $65.) That would seem to be a response to poor sales, but whose response is it? Retailers? Distributors? Importers? Distilleries? What links in the chain between the distilleries and our liquor store shelves account for the markups?

    • John Hansell says:

      I made a note of your request, Bill. I do know that the three tier system here in the U.S. does pad the price when compared to other markets.

      • Bill says:

        Thanks! There’s a list of expressions that are so marked up that, in addition to the expense relative to other, better-priced whiskies of the same age here, I won’t buy partly out of the resentment the comes with knowing that in the UK they cost more or less the same as those better-priced expressions here. Tobermory 15, Springbank 18, Bowmore Tempest, Laphroaig 18 (before the repricing)….

      • Bill H. says:

        For what it’s worth, here’s the Springbank post from July 8th of last year. It’s relevant to the pricing complaints rather than the whisky under review, so sorry about that, but the former seems the theme of the thread, so while we’re at it … (Dear Springbank and and Bowmore: we complain because we care!):

        At The Whisky Exchange, Springbank 10 is £25.49 ex VAT, which at today’s exchange rate comes out to $38.63; it’s normally $58 at Astor Wine (but currently marked down to $50). That’s roughly a 48% markup. Fine.

        Springbank 15 is £35.70 ex VAT, which is $54; it’s $90 at Astor: a 66% markup.

        Springbank 18 is £53.57 ex VAT, which is $81.15; it’s $165 at Astor. That’s more than a 100% markup.

        If the markup on the 15 and 18 were comparable to that of the 10 I would understand, but 100%? What accounts for this? Are tariffs progressive?

        If these were priced comparably in the UK–say if the 18 were £107 ex VAT (£125.72)–how would Springbank expect its domestic sales to be affected?

        Whoever’s to blame (Springbank, distributors, US retailers–I’m assuming tariffs aren’t progressive), the extreme markup of the 18 yo can’t be doing Springbank any favors. I for one simply can’t afford this, and my resentment after doing the math would make me balk even if I could.

        • mongo says:

          as john noted, the three-tier (importer-distributor-retailer) system in the u.s adds extra layers of mark-ups. on the whiskywhiskywhisky forum peter currie (of springbank) noted that most distilleries price at a discount for the u.s market for this reason; springbank apparently doesn’t, and this is presumably why their whiskies are more expensive. i guess they don’t do it because as a smaller, independent distillery they can’t afford to.

          that shouldn’t apply to bowmore though. if their regular 12yo can be priced <$40 in many u.s markets and the 15yo darkest <$70 then i see no reason why this one has to be $100.

          • Bill H says:

            I understand how that would account for a general across-the-board markup like the one on the Springbank 10, but how does it account for the dramatic increase of the percentage of the markups on the older expressions? It’s the disparity that has me asking. Seeing a 48% markup on the UK price of the 10yo and a 100% markup on the UK price of the 18 yo makes me wonder whether the US consumer isn’t being taken advantage of. I’m not dead set on that being the case. I can imagine the absurdity of tariff laws. If you told me they factored age statements into the calculus I’d probably believe you, but would other 18 year old single malts show a 100% markup?

            I’ll look for the Peter Currie post you mentioned. Thanks.

          • mongo says:

            well, the laph 18 also entered most american markets near the $120 mark. a much higher markup there too vis a vis the 10 and qc in the u.k/u.s markets. at the very least, springbank isn’t the only distillery whose whiskies seem to be getting asymmetrically marked up. though springbank prices never seem to fall here.

          • Bill H says:

            Right, but the Laphroaig prices have dropped, which suggests to me a correction to some overreaching in the face of slow sales.

            It seems counter intuitive that prices should go up in an economic downturn, but it may be (and I’m speculating here) that the broad class of individuals once willing now and then to spring for something approaching the $100 mark has declined significantly enough that somewhere along their way to US shelves the decision was made to price those bottles exclusively for a smaller, moneyed class of individuals for whom the markup isn’t a concern (and for whom the exclusivity of a price tag can serve as a product in its own right). Maybe the perception is that the decline in consumer spending has put the former price points sufficiently out of the reach of that once-reliable broader class of buyers that, though they would sell fewer at a significantly higher price point, they would still sell enough that the higher price would more than make up for the reduced sales. It seems Laphroaig 18 aimed too high and now has found the right middle-ground. Or not. It may be that Springbank 18 is doing just fine where it is (I haven’t checked to see where it is now, btw; the price disparities noted above were from a year ago).

            This strikes me as a fairly clear abandonment of one market for another on the not-unreasonable grounds that demand has shifted to a higher income bracket. It’s interesting to me that it should be happening here, and with only a handful of releases, but not in the UK. How many UK buyers would Springbank 18 or Bowmore Tempest lose if they were priced 50% higher? Would the higher price make up for the decline in sales? If the markup here is due to retailers or (what seems more likely) distributors and if they’re all aiming too high, it may be they aren’t doing Springbank or Bowmore any favors pricing those products out of the reach of those to whom they should be marketing.

            If they were marked up at the same rate as similarly aged whiskies priced similarly to them in the UK, I would buy a bottle of Bowmore Tempest, Tombermory 15, or Springbank 18 tomorrow. Right now their prices are prohibitively steep and even if I made enough to put them just in reach, my knowing how excessively they’ve been marked up relative to other releases would, as I’ve noted before, make me avoid them out of resentment or bypass the gouging by ordering them from the UK at a lower cost even with the smaller bottle size factored in and with shipping included.

          • Steve Fox says:

            Bill
            I do not know where you get your numbers from
            Springbank in the US is $42- 50 all over $41 and up in the UK
            the 18yr $125 in the US and $100in the UK
            UK 700ml US 750ml
            this is not a 100% mark up

            Steve Fox
            Preiss imports

          • Bill H. says:

            My numbers are from July of last year, as it says right there in the post, and they were based on comparing the prices at The Whisky Exchange with the prices at one of the more reasonable of NYC retailers. I intentionally didn’t go with the most expensive pricing in the city. Better prices could no doubt be found, but so could worse ones. I think using Astor Wine is pretty fair to work from.

            But let’s update them!

            At The Whisky Exchange, Springbank 10 is £26.46 ex VAT, which at today’s exchange rate comes out to $42.96; it’s normally $58 at Astor Wine (but currently marked down to $50). That’s roughly a 35% markup. Fine.

            Springbank 15 is £37.08 ex VAT, which is $60; it’s $90 at Astor: a 50% markup.

            Springbank 18 is now £87.50 ex. VAT at TWE and labeled 1st Edition; when I did these figures last year it was £53.57 ex VAT. I’m assuming they’ve priced it up due to scarcity and that a 2nd edition would be priced comparably. Indeed Royal Mile is currently asking £59.96 ex VAT, so let’s go with that. That’s $97. It’s $165 at Astor. That’s a 70% markup.

            So last year the 10, 15, and 18, based on the UK prices and the exchange rate then, were marked up 48%, 66%, and 100%, respectively.

            Now, with today’s exchange rate and slightly higher prices in the UK, the 10, 15, and 18 are marked up 35%, 50%, and 70%, respectively.

            Looks like more or less the same relative rate of increase as we climb the ladder of expressions, which means the difference in the actual cost between this year and last is neither here nor there. The disparity obtains.

            The question is this (to repeat): why are they not all marked up at the same rate? Why the dramatically progressive markup? Why is the 18 yo marked up at twice the rate as the 10 yo? The point of contention here is how much more expensive in the US than in the UK the 15yo and 18yo are relative to the 10 yo.

            There are other single malts marked up as dramatically as Springbank 18 (see Bowmore Tempest and Tobermory 15) but not many that I’ve noticed. We could look at the markups on the standard ranges of some other distilleries and I doubt we’d see anything like the what we see in the Springbank 18 as compared to the 10.

          • Steve Fox says:

            Bill
            you pick the lowest priced store in the UK But not in the US NY is always higher it just cost more in the big citty
            if you think that is fare fine
            I will not go aroung and around with you on this

          • John Hansell says:

            Steve does have a point. If TWE is indeed among the best priced retailers in the UK, it wouldn’t be fair to compare to NYC prices, which are often higher than other places in the US.

          • Bill H. says:

            Steve and John, I seem to be unable to reply to either of your posts so I’ll do it here.

            Apparently I’m not making myself clear. Whether or not New York is more expensive than elsewhere is irrelevant. It’s the disparity in the percentage of the markups on Springbanks 10, 15, and 18 that concerns me. On July 8th of last year they were 48%, 66%, and 100%, respectively. Today they are 35%, 50%, and 70%, respectively. Look how the markups has gone down! What then am I complaining about? In both cases the percentage of the markup on the 18 yo is double that of the 10 yo. As I said: “this disparity obtains.”

            At TWE: Ardbeg 10 £29.79 ex VAT = $48.32; Uigeadail £41.63 = $67.50; Corryveckan £51.63 = $83.73; Supernova £70.63 = $114.55. At Astor Wine they are priced $50, $75, $85, and $125 for markups of 3%, 11%, 3%, and 8%, respectively. If we’re going to blame NYC for being so expensive, why aren’t we seeing a 70% markup on the Supernova? If Astor were asking $195 instead of $125 I might agree that NYC was to blame. Instead, what costs £59.96 ex VAT at TWE costs $165 at Astor and what costs £70.63 ex VAT at TWE is $125 at Astor.

            Let’s look at Binny’s in Chicago, why don’t we:

            At The Whisky Exchange, Springbank 10 is £26.46 ex VAT, which at today’s exchange rate comes out to $42.96; it’s $50 at Binny’s. That’s a low 15% markup. Excellent.

            Springbank 15 is £37.08 ex VAT, which is $60; it’s $90 at Binny’s (which is the same at Astor): a 50% markup.

            Springbank 18 is now £59.96 ex. VAT at Royal Mile. That’s $97. It’s $150 at Binny’s. That’s only a 55% markup!

            That’s a markup on the 10, 15, and 18 of 15%, 50%, and 55%, respectively. Still an increase in the markup from one to the next made more dramatic by the leap from the 10 to the 15 (which is the same at Binny’s as at Astor) and less so in the only 5% increase of the 18 over the 15.

            Again, if everything were, say, 50% I wouldn’t attribute it to tariffs and the cost of shipping and not think twice. But that’s not the case here. Why are we being charged so much for Bowmore Tempest and Springbank 18 when other whiskies priced similarly in the UK aren’t nearly as expensive here?

          • mongo says:

            bill: you have to consider the effect of multiple markups.

            peter currie’s example on the whiskywhiskywhisky forum was as follows:

            “Springbank Whisky – £30 ($46.50)
            + Shipping – £2 ($3)
            + Duty – £8 ($12.40)
            =£40 ($61.90)
            + 1 margin @30% = £53 ($82) + UK VAT (20%) = £64 UK Retail Price
            + US wholesaler margin @ 30% = £69 ($107)
            + US retailer margin @ 30% = £90 ($140) + US VAT (12%) = $160 US retail price”

            he’s a little high on the u.s sales tax (it’s 10% in minnesota but lower elsewhere) but the math works out.

            and in the rare instances that u.s retailers don’t tack on 30% markups the prices are sane. there is a retailer in minneapolis that does not mark up over 10% and they sell the springbank 15 for <$70.

            what may be happening is that some combination of the importer/wholesaler/retailer are marking the 10 and 15yo up less than the 18yo. also when you consider, as peter currie notes, that springbank may be one of very few producers who don’t discount for the u.s market that may explain why we don’t see comparable discrepancies in price on the other whiskies you mention–american retailers may be beginning their markups from a lower base on those.

            as for steve fox: you keep citing a $43 shipping charge if i buy directly from the u.k. that’s for one bottle. if i buy 5 bottles my per bottle shipping charge drops to $17 per bottle….

          • Steve Fox says:

            Bill

            I will be happy to go over how things work in the US
            Just give me a I will not go round and around your info is not right
            818-249-6680

          • Bill H. says:

            Why don’t you point out to us here, in this public forum, what of the information I’ve presented isn’t right? Are the prices not as I claim? Am I working with the wrong exchange rate? Is my math incorrect? Otherwise what are you talking about? My speculation on why prices have gonie up in a recession? That’s not something I need to phone you about and, anyway, I didn’t post this stuff to a public forum in order to get private answers. The pricing I’ve presented by way of asking a question: Why are some releases marked up so excessively and not others? I’ve done this in a public form in order to get answer for the public to read. See the reactions here to the steep markup on the Tempest? I’m guessing many if not all here would like to know what the deal is with that. You can find plenty of similar reactions to the steep markup on Springbank 18 as well. These are your customers. If your sales are doing just fine, just ignore us! But I don’t think your responses so far have done you any favors.

            Let’s not go around on this anymore. I think the question by now is clear. You, anyone, can answer or not.

          • Steve Fox says:

            I found the 18yr as low as $125 and you do not talk about the $43 shipping charge

          • Bill H. says:

            How can I talk about what I don’t know about? When I ask what’s going on, and you provide some of the information needed toward the answering of that question, acting as though I’m remiss for not already knowing it strikes me as odd.

            But how is that shipping cost determined? $43 a bottle? Really? Are shipping costs sensitive to the age of the whisky being shipped? Or to the per-bottle cost before shipping? It would seem to be a clear advantage to individuals ordering from the UK that our shipping costs are on a per-bottle basis and not, as you seem to be suggesting, based on some percentage of the cost of the bottle purchased. Surely you don’t also pay $43 for each bottle of Springbank 10.

            And still this doesn’t explain why other whiskies priced similarly in the UK would be so much cheaper than Springbank 18 here. Glenfarclas 17 is £51.63 ex. VAT at TWE; that’s $84. It’s $95 at Astor ($93 at Beekman’s). That’s only a 13% markup. Glenfarclas 25 is £79.79 ex. VAT at TWE; that’s $129. It’s $156 at Beekman’s (Astor doesn’t carry it–Glenfarclases are scarce in NYC for some reason). That’s a 21% markup.

            But look! Beekman’s is charging only $130 for Springbank 18. Now we’re talking! That’s only a 34% markup! (Interestingly, their 10 and 15 are more expensive than at Astor: $59 and $95, respectively).

            Now we seem to be able to point to retailers, right? Are they free to set whatever price they want, or do they get any coaching from distributors? (I know the answer to this may well vary from state to state.) Remember we in NYC, practically across the city, saw Laphroaig 18 drop from $140 to $100. That uniformity of the high pricing and then of the drop suggests something other than independent retailers arriving at the same inflated price to me, though it may show some independent discounting in the face of bad sales. And I doubt that this time last year Beekman’s had that good a price on their Sringbank 18. Indeed, Park Ave. Liquor is asking $140, which is shocking, as I’ve never seen them beat any of Astor’s prices before, and I suspect I’ve seen it there for more in the past as well. For once it may be that Astor’s behind on correcting for some overpricing?

            Anyway, one need only to look at John’s review of Springbank 18 on July 8th of last year to see that the suggested retail was $160. Whose suggestion was that, John?

            My guess: retailers started in that ball park and, as with the Laphroaig 18, have had to scale back some. That’s the consumer talking. Maybe if we hold out we’ll see a fire sale of Tempests at Warehouse in a year or two?

            My questions all stand: there are some releases that are fairly consistently marked up at a rate considerably higher than than similarly priced releases in the UK. Springbank 18, like Laphroaig 18, seems to be getting less egregious; Springbank 15 seems to be consistently high at around 50%, though. And there, again, there are Bowmore Tempest and Tobermory 15. Compare the price of the latter in the US to what it costs in the UK. Sad.

          • Steve Fox says:

            you keep talking about whisky exchange prices for this price to be good you have to get the bt from the UK the throught the mail that will cost you $43 a bt that is why am not going to write a report for you
            you can say it look bad OK thats fine

          • Bill H. says:

            Sigh.

  17. D.Houston says:

    The Bowmore Tempest is only $71 in New Brunswick and is now one of my favorite drams, the perfect balance of peat. I don’t know how Single Malt Scotch is priced in this province but i take full advantage of it. If anyone is ever passing through check out our prices, where else can you get a bottle of Highland Park 18 for $89. Cheers

  18. Morgan Steele says:

    I was going to pass on this but it’s listed in 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die so I’m in for a bottle. Hope I detect the dynamic range described by John in his review.

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