To paraphrase Sean Bean in The Lord of the Rings, one does not simply walk into the tasting for a $75,000 bottle of scotch.
No, one is driven to such a tasting in an Aston Martin — specifically, in my case, the DBX 707, the brand's latest, most potent SUV. Driven to Connecticut, to be precise, to an art museum created on the grounds of a modern / postmodern architect, where you're eased into the tasting with fresh Wellfleet oysters, caviar and whiskey cocktails, then whisked off to an underground art gallery to preview this most exquisite of browns before noshing on lobster tails and Wagyu tenderloin.
In other words, it's an experience.
Of course, it's hard to fault Bowmore for rolling out the metaphorical red carpet for the ARC-52, the brand's latest partnership with Aston Martin. It's not every day a legendary distillery rolls out a 52-year-old whiskey, and it's not every day a distillery teams up with an automotive icon to create a bottle worthy of installation in an art museum itself (although that, admittedly, is becoming a bit more common).
But for those lucky few — more on that in a second — who actually take home a bottle of Bowmore ARC-52, the draw isn't the experience shared by a few journalists — it's the whiskey itself. (Admittedly, if they can afford a bottle of this whiskey, they likely have the means to recreate that sort of culinary experience at the drop of a hat.)
What's Good About the Bowmore ARC-52:
It's remarkably delicious.
Suffice it to say, my expectations were high walking into the tasting. After all, while age and flavor often go together in whiskeys and some other spirits, there's no guarantee that more time always equals a better product. That said, I'm pleased to say that the ARC-52 is absolutely one of the best scotch whiskeys I've ever tasted. It's shockingly well-balanced and light for a spirit that's been maturing in sherry butt and American oak ex-Bourbon hogshead casks for more than half a century.
On the nose, it's dominated, unexpectedly, by flavors of fruit — light, tropical notes that bring to mind sea breezes and swaying palm trees. Those fruit flavors dominate the palate and finish, as well; they're never overpowering, never cloying or sickly, but simply fresh — it has a freshness you wouldn't expect from a 50-year-old whiskey. The closest analogy I could come for it, oddly enough, was a mango Starburst — not a real mango Starburst, rather, but the perfect childhood memory of that first mango Starburst you ever had, when candy was the greatest treat imaginable and your whole world seemed to stop when you managed to snag some.
The bottle is an absolute work of art.
One easy way to sum up how unique this bottle is? It's the first bottle of whiskey I've ever seen with keyless entry.
Okay, slight exaggeration — but only just. See, the decanter is divided into two parts: the glass vessel that holds the liquid, and the metal cap that covers up the mouth. That part is magnetically clasped to the top of the bottle, so it won't tumble off or rattle around. In order to unlock it, Bowmore provides you with a magnet inside a metal lozenge that looks almost exactly like the ones used to lock and unlock cars; hold it against the bottle in the right place, and boop, the magnet releases and the metal sheath slides off the mouth of the bottle.
Even setting aside the car-inspired opening process, the ARC-52's bottle is worthy of attention. Aston Martin's designers played a role in crafting it, and it shows; its flowing, organic lines rendered in tapered glass and metal bring to mind the likes of cars like the DB5 and Vanquish, if in spirit more than clear homage. It's utterly unique, and very cool.
You'll have some serious bragging rights.
Only 100 bottles of ARC-52 are ever scheduled to be sold — 50 this year, and 50 in 2023 — so if you happen to be lucky enough to take one home, it's worthy of display. Although, ideally, under gentle lighting that won't heat up or otherwise affect the whiskey. Maybe keep it in the Batcave for that day you finally put away the Riddler.
What's Not Ideal About the Bowmore ARC-52:
Uh, it costs $75,000 a bottle.
I didn't have a chance to bust out a measuring cup at the Bowmore event, so I can't tell you whether the dram of ARC-52 I had was one ounce or 1.5 — but if it was the latter, it was around $4,438 worth of whiskey. (Even one ounce would still be worth $2,954.) One glass of this stuff is worth around as much as a hyper-inflated bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve.
Between the price and the rarity, it seems unlikely that most whiskey lovers will ever even have the chance to see a bottle of this Bowmore / Aston collaboration, let alone drink or buy one. Which is a shame, because it really is damn good whiskey.
Bowmore ARC-52 Scotch Whiskey: The Verdict
Much like Aston Martin's Valkyrie hypercar, the Bowmore ARC-52 is an aspirational product designed to make a statement and draw buyers to other, more affordable items in the line. Car buyers get hooked by the Valkyrie, start paying attention to Aston Martin, and wind up buying a Vantage; whiskey buyers are drawn in by the ARC-52, get more interested in Bowmore, and wind up taking home some bottles of the 18-year.
But if you should ever find the opportunity to try it, I highly recommend you do. I can't say it's worth $75,000 — I'm not sure any whiskey really could be, and to be frank, I'm not sure how you even could judge the value of one at such a price — but I can say that it's one damn fine scotch.