1) Famous whisky writer Alfred Barnard visited Inchgower in 1885 and wrote: "... The buildings which are of stone and slate are erected in the form of an oblong quadrangle and cover nearly four acres of ground…. A modern work, and is fitted up with all the latest improvements of machinery and vessels."
2) The 'Flora & Fauna' bottlings of Inchgower malt whisky feature a picture of an Oyster Catcher, a bird that is an annual visitor to this coastal area of the Speyside region.
3) In 1966 all stills of Inchgower switched to steam heating - they were heated directly before that.
4) There are 13 warehouses on the grounds of Inchgower distillery, offering room for some 60,000 casks.
They don't only contain casks of Inchgower malt whisky, but whiskies from other distilleries from Diageo as well.
5) Only 1% of the total production of the Inchgower distillery is bottled as a single malt whisky. Almost half of the
total production is sold on to customers, the rest is used for Diageo blends like Johnnie Walker and White Horse.
Inchgower 36yo 1974/2010 (50.4%, The Whisky Fair/The Whisky Agency, Sherry, 180 Bts)
Nose: Polished start, sweetening out after a second with organics emerging after a minute. Very complex!
Spicy peatuts. Wassabi. It drops off after a few minutes, though. Quite some very unique whisky traits.
It doesn't need water, but a few drops can't hurt, can they? Some water revives the whisky again.
Taste: Smooth with a gentle sweetness. A hint of perfume, but not TOO much. A faint hint of green peat.
Score: 91 points - further proof that Inchgower produced some fantastic whisky, at least in the past.
Inchgower 1974/2009 (57.1%, Scotch Single Malt Circle / Maggie Miller, Cask #7763, 188 Bts.)
Nose: Big, fruity and expressive, but at the same time it's a fairly 'light' profile. Fruit yoghurt? Some pine?
String beans? Expressive and quite complex, but it dumbs down a little after five minutes. Hint of soap?
Taste: Fruity with gentle tannins popping up very quickly. Sweetish with a touch of smoke in the background.
Subtle fruits and some aniseed - an unusual combination. The finish is fairly hot and dry; the 'plywood' variety.
Score: 86 points - yet another pleasant surprise from the Inchgower distillery.
Inchgower 26yo 1980/2007 (59.8%, Adelphi, C#14155, 223 Bts.)
Nose: Polished with loads of wood. Not very expressive at first, but it opens op. A little nutty.
Raisins. Some smoke. Starts off strong and improves by a few points after breathing.
Taste: Loads of wood with a fruity undercurrent. Very long, woody finish. Some tannins, but not too much.
The smoke and wood grow stronger (and a little more complex) over time.
Score: 90 points - It kept on growing on me, but I guess it's too extremely woody for some people.
Inchgower 24yo 1980/2005 (60.4%, Adelphi, Cask #14152)
Nose: Heavy sherry and cough syrup. Smoke. Wet dog. Organics. Spicy. Coffee. Tea leaves. Sweetening out.
The bouquet seems strangely shallow at first, but there's some development over time. Needs ten minutes.
Second glass: Loads of dry sherry & organics in the nose at first. Ice tea with lemon. Wet dog. Sweetening out.
Taste: Sweet and fruity start, quickly growing smokier. Very thick, almost like a liqueur. Tia Maria. Woody.
Something sourish in the finish. After fifteen minutes the smoke starts to overpower everything else.
Score: 92 points - my kind of profile, but at first it seems a little 'superficial'. A late bloomer.
I had it in the mid 80's for the first ten minutes, but it kept growing on me as it opened up. Lovely!!!
Excellent on the palate as well, Sweet, fruity and supersmooth. Mega-complex This is just brilliant...
Inchgower 24yo 1980/2005 (54,7%, SMWS 18.24 'Emphatically fig-like')
Nose: Gooseberries. Lots of other subtle fruits. Some farmy organics as well.
Wonderful complexity. Hint of smoke? Sweet wood.
Taste: Smooth and fruity start. More 'contemplative' over time. Lovely wood and tannins in the finish.
Excellent mouth feel with a hint of smoke. Oh yeah, this one deserves a solid gold medal if you ask me.
Score: 90 points - at the MM Awards 2007 this came in at the 9th place on my personal hit list.
Inchgower 19yo (55.2%, Cadenhead, Sherry cask, Bottled 5/11/'04, 60 Bottles)
This came from a sherry cask that was supposedly bottled 'especially for the store' for a festival release.
Only 60 bottles? I guess there must be some left then, no? Well, it could have been a micro-cask, I suppose...
Anyway, the nose was very nice. Lots of sherry with subtle organics and spices. Mint?
The nose was very nice, but the palate is where it really shines; sweet and solid and not overly sherried at all.
Score: 87 points - lots of great fruits here; it illustrates why Inchgower has such a big reputation.
Inchgower 14yo 1989/2004 Port Finish (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask)
Nose: Rich and creamy. Sweet. Nutty. Reminded me a bit of Glenmorangie 'Cellar 13'.
Then some soft spices emerge - quite nice. Hint of oil. Fatter and fruitier with time.
The nose is quite lovely - the port finish is fairly subtle, adding spice and liveliness.
Taste: Oy... Pine. A little herbal, leaning towards perfumy. Sweeter in the centre.
Minty fresh. A little sourish. Nagging tannins. Something fishy - like smoked herring.
Score: 80 points - but based on the nose alone it would have been a score in the mid-80's.
A recommendable dram, even though the port finish is fairly subtle here.
Inchgower 27yo 1976/2004 (55.6%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Heavier than I expected. malty with a hint of oil and something metallic. Vaguely dusty like old barley.
It grows a little 'dirtier'over time - which is good. Spicier and nuttier, reminiscent of recent Deanstons.
And again the metallic notes pop up. Opens up immediately after adding water. Dentistry aroma's.
Taste: Quite sweet, great mouth feel at cask strength. A little nondescript, but very nice. Let's give it a minute...
Hm... Not much change there. The nose lifts it to the upper 80's but the palate keeps it at a relatively modest 85.
Score: 85 points - a very good whisky, but not TOO exceptional considering it's quite old.
Inchgower 26yo 1976/2002 (49.9%, Hart Brothers, Distilled August '76, Bottled September '02, CVI)
Nose: Unique and very interesting. Coastal in the top of my nose. Briny and nutty.
Something very faintly medicinal. This malt shows some odd combinations...
Taste: Rather flat. Hot. Very bitter in the finish. It doesn't have enough 'body' for my tastes.
Score: 78 points - a smidgen above average, but a disappointment at this age and strength.
Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB, Bell's, Bottled +/-1995)
Nose: A relatively sherried nose that needed a minute to develop. Sweet & spicy. Salty sea notes after a while.
Quite complex, the sherry accompanied by sweetness, chocolate and lots of other interesting fragrances.
Taste: Malty and sweet at first, with some cherry flavour. Later dry. Balanced. A long, dry finish.
Score: 78 points - in hindsight, this may have been one of the last batches of this official bottling.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Inchgower Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Inchgower page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Inchgower expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Inchgower (Pronounced: INSJ-gower)
57°39'42.8256 N, 2°57'49.9824 W
Aultmore, Glenglassaugh, Banff
Sources in the Menduff Hills
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
Almost 3,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Diageo / UDV
Buckie, Banffshire, AB56 5AB, Scotland
Yes - a few. Most of the output goes into blends
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2004 - The Inchgower 27yo 1976/2004 (55.6%, UD Rare Malts) is released; the last new semi-official bottling since the 14yo 'Flora & Fauna' bottling (with an Oyster catcher on the label) and the Inchgower 22yo 1974/1997 (55.7%, UD Rare Malts). The 12yo Bell's official bottling that was available since the 1970's has disappeared in the late 1990's.
2011 - Two of the washbacks at Inchgower are replaced.
2012 - The Inchgower distillery is closed for four months for a extensive renovation of the facility.
Combined with a new production schedule, the annual output is increased to almost 3 million litres or spirit.
Inchgower was fairly self sufficient
- the distillery had its own cooperage
and forge while housing for distillery workers was part of the buildings too.
Unfortunately, this didn't prevent the owners Alexander Wilson & Co. from
going bankrupt in 1936. The Inchgower distillery was bought by the Buckie
Town Council for the bargain basement price of £1,600. They made a neat
little profit when they sold it on to Arthur Bell & Sons in 1938 for 3,000 GBP.
The Inchgower distillery
was built in 1871 by Alexander Wilson & Co. to
replace the Tochineal Distillery. Equipment from this distillery was used for
the construction of Inchgower near the fishing village of Buckie; a little to
the northeast of the majority of the distilleries in Speyside, along the coast
and west of Banff and Glenglassaugh.
Arthur Bell & Sons made little changes to Inchgower until 1966 when they modernised the distillery and expanded the number of stills from two to four, doubling the capacity. The malt whisky that
was distilled at Inchgower eventually became an important component of the Bell's blends. That wasn't the only blend it was used for though - it's part of the Johnnie Walker and White Horse blends too.
In fact, blends have always been very important in the life of Inchgower. After all, only 1% of the total production of the distillery is sold as a single malt whisky. With that in mind, it's hardly surprising that Inchgower malt whisky is very difficult to find at your average liquorist.
Official bottlings don't exist, unless you count the 'Flora & Fauna' and
'UD Rare Malts' bottlings as such. There have been some independent
bottlings over the years though. I had a quick look at my Track Record
and found a few bottlings from Cadenhead's, Adelphi, Hart Brothers,
Signatory Vintage and Helen Arthur. Still, there are surprisingly few
independent bottlings, given the considerable distillery output.
It's a little strange that not all the whisky in the 13 warehouses is
Inchgower malt whisky. While there are a lot of casks from other
Diageo distilleries stored in the Inchgower warehouses that offer
room for 60,000 casks, most of the Inchgower malt whisky isn't
actually matured 'on site' but shipped elsewhere. I can't believe all
the moving back-and-forth of casks is good for the environment.
What's more, it indicates that 'terroir' isn't really that important.
Anyway - back to the history... In 1985 Arthur Bell & Sons was taken over by Guinness,
which evolved into UDV (United Distillers & Vintners) in 1987, together with DCL.
This company was one of the predecessors of industry giant Diageo.
Inchgower has a stainless steel semi lauter
mash tun and six Oregon pine washbacks.
In 2006 and 2007 Inchgower was closed for
refurbishment for almost a year. One of the
most significant changes was the installation
of a so-called 'closed yeast pitching system'
that added yeast to the wash automatically.
This innovations gives more control over the
style of the whisky, but is less 'traditional'.
Like in most other modern distilleries, malting
of the barley doesn't happen at Inchgower
anymore. These days the barley is malted at
an external Diageo facility. Inchgower's malt
is made at Burghead, 20 miles to the west.
And I guess that's all I can tell you about Inchgower. The distillery may be a little light on history and quirky details, but the malt whisky is of excellent quality - at least the stuff they used to distill around 1980.
Is the distillery or