ABV: 50.5% Distillery: Inchgower Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Region: SpeysideAge: 14
Despite having a lot of time for salty coastal whiskies, I’m surprised to see this is The Dramble’s first logged review from Inchgower - as always, too many whiskies, too little time. Nearly all of Inchgower’s production goes into blended whisky production, notably Bells, but also elements from the Johnnie Walker series. Those of you who explored the 2018 Diageo’s Special Releases might have come across it twice – both in a rare original bottling at 27 years old, but also forming part of ‘Cladach’ – Diageo’s seemingly now annual blended malt, which this year focussed on its coastal whiskies.
Without risking the ire of colleagues over at Malt, my first-hand experience suggests that saltiness detected in coastal whiskies is often more about production regimes than it is about seaside locations. You only have to sample the new make spirit from Pulteney to detect an inherently high level of salinity – at this point the spirit has been at the coast for hours, not years. But, remember, terroir can be as much about the origin of component ingredients as production location. This is similarly the case at Inchgower where a particularly hot mash and steeply angled lyne arms help form a heavy and spicy spirit character. The distillery might technically be classified as a Speysider, but its profile is often far removed from better-known distilleries located closer to the Spey.
All three (14, 17 and 26 year olds) Boutique-y Inchgower expressions were released earlier this year with similarly odd labels that feature goats and Niagara Falls (I’ve not worked this one out yet). The third batch is both the youngest and the largest with 1,096 bottles. It clocks in at 47.4% ABV and costs £54.95 from Master of Malt.
Nose: Commencing fresh and sprightly with garden florals (jasmine and gardenia), laundered linen, green apples and orange zest. In the background, moist soils and tree mulch along with golden malts. Reduction has an interesting effect – on the one hand adding sweetness with a drizzle of honey and cube of toffee, on the other unleashing some locked away salinity. The two go together rather nicely.
Taste: The arrival has real zing with punchy ginger fading into chilli pepper spiciness. Lots of pears here - freshly picked, steeped and converted to Perry. They sit alongside toffee sauce and pink wafer biscuits. The mid and back-palates draw more from the spirit and cask with plenty of steely minerality (moving towards salt), white pepper and drying oak. Dilution adds barley water and butter cake, with less of opening punchiness from the spices. The minerality gradually converts from sharp and steely to chalky and resembling crushed aspirin, whilst the floralness detected on the nose gradually returns.
Finish: Medium in length with various pepper spices, steeliness and sea salt.
This Boutique-y Inchgower ticks a few boxes for me. Indeed, I find it a rather neat example of how aromas and flavours at opposite ends of the spectrum can both complement and counterbalance each other at the same time. Florals, fruits, spices and salts sounds like an over-complicated recipe for confusion, but here, the end result is a surprisingly harmonious marriage of delicateness with chiselled precision. Those of you who enjoy coastal profile whiskies sans peat smoke would do well to explore this underappreciated and presently under released distillery.
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