Unpredictability should be an assurance of any Advent calendar. Ever since I was a child my family have merrily rolled out the annual daily door opening ritual (though back in the 70s treats tended towards biblical scenes or festive cartoons for 24 days in a row). And beyond an Advent calendar being a daily indulgence – and boy does it feel like 2020 is a year when this is needed – I’ve always felt that the surprise of what’s behind the window is fundamental part of the long-term allure of calendars. Day 10 of the 2020 Boutique-y Whisky Advent calendar seems to have delivered a mystery to some - with a number announcing that they’ve yet to sample Lomond’s heavily peated, Inchfad style of spirit – and indeed, a few noting that they’ve never even heard of it. Excellent. Going in blind is the best.
But given that, allow me then to quickly provide you with an overview what the wizards of whisky diversity are cooking up at Loch Lomond distillery.
Loch Lomond’s three stills, three peating levels and three yeast types allow for an impressive thirteen different styles of new-make spirit to be created. Of the peated output, Inchmoan is probably the most recognisable currently – the distillery has released over half a dozen bottlings over the last couple of years. But if you look a little wider, you’ll find there’s a much greater canvas of smoky Lomond to explore.
Whilst Lomond themselves are currently sticking to Inchmoan as their peated OB of choice (and are moving steadily their range to descriptors rather than specific spirit names), the heavily peated Croftengea, and Inchfad (all christened after islands on the Loch) can be found via independent bottlers. There’s also the almost never seen medium peated Craiglodge – produced in name only 5 times which disappearing as quickly as it arrived back in 2007. I’ve never seen one in the flesh.
Inchfad is commonly noted as being the heaviest peated style produced by Lomond – but having sampled a wide number of expressions from this distillery, I’ll suggest that it’s a style that presents much more phenolically at a younger age. And that whilst all whiskies will steadily mellow and switch their balance from peat-influence to cask-influence, Inchfad in my option is one that sees this transference sometimes occurring quicker than you’ll find with other spirit styles. As such, I’ve discovered Inchfad’s that present as merely slightly peaty, Inchfad’s that punch you directly in the face with peat – and everything in-between.
As above, the distillery has abandoned the use of Loch names for its myriad spirit styles – you will not see anymore OB’s bearing the Inchfad name. Indeed, it seems that Loch Lomond might only be using this spirit style as a component malt within its wide portfolio – layering heavily peated, lightly peated and unpeated malts and grains together to elevate them into something broader. However, the term is still used by Indy bottlers and you will find a handful of purist Inchfad releases each year as of writing.
Boutique-y’s Batch 1 Inchfad is a larger sized vatting which has resulted in 2,473 bottles. It’s been released as a 13 year old expression, delivered at 49.5% and can be sought out via Master of Malt for £58.95.
Nose: A leftfield combination of gruyere and Philadelphia cheeses combined with yeasty dough, fermenting beer, creamy rice, pan fats and earthy, near vegetal smoke. I like it. Some possibly might not. Sweetness levels are high with saccharine orchard fruits and an assortment of baked goods. Reduction presents barley water, gooseberries, mossiness and hints of seashells and smoothed pebbles.
Taste: Fatty and yet also ‘cleaner’ than some examples of this distillate I’ve tried. Beef dripping, buttered bread and gentle farmyard notes sit with grape juice, gooseberries and slightly lactic fermenting milk. Sour preserved lemons provide a tartness, whilst a dusting of caster sugar, yellow jelly babies and lemon gel adds a potent kick of sweetness. All sit together very nicely with an underlying wood smoke character. Dilution here amps up fruitiness with orange pith and unripe mangos – whilst largely retaining the fatiness levels.
Finish: Medium with olive oil, earthy smoke and fading touches of chocolate bon bon.
As is the case with most expressions from the more idiosyncratic end of Lomond’s output – this will either be your jam, or it won’t. For me, whilst Boutique-y’s Batch 1 Inchfad similarly presents quite divergently away from what one might consider to be the orthodoxy of whisky (even within the peated spectrum), the balance between the distillate character, fruitiness and eccentricity is all nicely in check. Perhaps a bit overly sugary in places? Nevertheless, all happy for me here today.
Sorren over at OCD Whisky is also mad enough to be reviewing the Boutique-y Advent calendar every single day in the run up to Christmas. So why don't you pop over to his site to see how his palate assesses this Inchfad?
Review calendar provided by Atom Brands