It’s rare that I come across a single malt whisky that I had never heard of let alone had the pleasure of tasting. The malt in question is the 31 year old Inchgower, a private bottling from Ian Macleod Distillers under their brand Dun Bheagan Collection.
One cannot fake the flavors that are created in whisky through genuine aging. The initial exposure and wood contact impart a lot of color and flavors such as coconut, vanilla and caramel etc that one usually can associate with their whisky. However 31 years of aging allows something very special to happen. The initially present chemicals break down their early original bonds and make entirely brand new bonds, forming new chemical components. In doing so creating a completely different sets of flavor profiles. For example, the presence of leather tropical fruits, walnut etc may not be present in a young whisky but develop later on.
This then is probably the most interesting dram I have tasted this year, so complex and full of flavors I had previously not experienced in whisky. The Nose – Honeydew and watermelon, sweet candied red fruit (Jolly rancher), buttery pastry all underpinned with a delicate saline note. The Palate bursts with fruit salad developing into a rich and silky cream with a peppery finish. Left to sit in the glass, notes of toffee, vanilla and a hint of dairy, reminiscent of condensed milk starts to show. When trying to evaluate a spirit it’s very interesting to set aside a glass for an hour or so. The oxidation that happens really start to expose different aromas and taste components that would otherwise remain locked away. A strange thing I also like to do is go back to the glass later when it has completely dried up; that can be interesting and very revealing.
The world of whisky is so special and enjoyable, what other drink can take you on so many unique sensory journeys?
The Inchgower Distillery was built in 1871 in the Speyside coastal fishing town of Buckie where the River Spey finally disgorges into the Moray Firth. It was sold to Arthur Bell and Sons in 1938, since which time its nearly two million litres per year output has been the main ingredient for the Bell’s Blended Scotch Whisky.
Such is the demand on this malt for the Bell’s blend Inchgower single malt bottlings are incredibly uncommon, certainly as rare at the Asian crested ibis, now down to less than 250 gracing only one small part of China. Diageo used to do very limited Inchgower releases in their “Rare Malts” collection and there are a few other independent bottlings, I found reference to an example from Cadenhead’s. So to say having the Inchgower Single Malt on the US shelves is rare would be a complete understatement. Furthermore, if you then say it’s a 31 year old, single barrel and cask strength (53.8 percent ABV) expression that was aged in a Hogshead and only yielded 170 bottles and is only available exclusively in New York–well you get the idea. We are talking seriously unique, but more importantly seriously tasty.