Taste Review #48 – TBWC Invergordon Single Grain 42
For those of you who know me personally, you’ll realise that due to my job I spend quite a lot of time visiting the Cromarty Firth, just to the north of Inverness. This stretch of water is most famous for being the place where oil rigs go to get refurbished or scrapped, and was once a base for the Royal Navy Home Fleet. But not many people realise that within site of this stretch of water there were 6 distilleries. There are 4 still producing – Dalmore and Teaninich at Alness, Glen Wyvis at Dingwall, Invergordon Distillery and two separate incarnations of the Ben Wyvis Distillery. Only the Ben Wyvis distillery is no longer producing.
The Cromarty Firth has to be one of the most awful places I have worked and I have worked in some dumps in my time. Truly the weather is like four seasons in one day. Apart from drinking, there is precious little else to do there. I’m probably being a bit unfair I suppose as the people I have met there have always been friendly. Indeed when a barmaid at the Caledonian Bar in Invergordon knows your drink, you’re in trouble.
Invergordon is one of the four sizeable towns on the Cromarty Firth, the others being Dingwall and Alness on the north side, plus Cromarty on the south side. It has an unofficial nickname of Inver-G By The Sea and was also the site of a large aluminium smelter that shut down in the 1980’s. Now apart from the oil industry related work, the only other industry in the town is the Invergordon Distillery. It’s unusual to see a grain distillery so far north – the other Scottish grain distilleries are all in the central belt. Invergordon was established in 1961 and has operated continually ever since.
A grain distillery uses a different distilling process to malt whisky, and Invergordon uses 3 Coffey stills, which are continuously running rather than the malt whisky pot still method. They also do not solely use malted barley, but a mixture of wheat and maize to make their spirit.
One advantage of the continuous still distillation method is that is is highly efficient at getting a purer, smoother alcohol, and the output of the Invergordon stills is around 94%, with the barrel fill strength being 71%. As it is owned by Whyte and Mackay, most of the output will be destined for their blended whiskies, but you do see the odd official bottling (I have an 10 year old Invergordon somewhere) but you are more likely to see it as an independent bottling, such as the sample I have to try today.
Before we move onto the tasting, let me tell you some more important information about the Invergordon Distillery. Malt whisky was actually produced here between 1965 and 1977, and was the second incarnation of the Ben Wyvis distillery name. After the cessation of malt whisky production, the pot stills were eventually sold to the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown.
And onto our tasting. This is a bit different for me as I don’t generally go for grain whiskies, independent bottlers or old age statements. This is from ‘That Boutique-y Whisky Company”, and I’m sure it is going to be lovely. Let’s see.
Sweet cereal; quite heavy, Floor varnish to start with, but opens up to a biscuity smell and a hint of vanilla. Corrugated cardboard, Apple peel and toffee.
Quite an odd one – I felt as though I was sucking on some heavily polished wood to start. Quite solvent tasting, but in a curiously addictive and pleasant way. PVA glue and old leather was in there too. Fried banana – maybe plantain, as it’s not that sweet, cloves, cinnamon.
Medium in length finish. Still got that polished wood taste in my mouth, but it has developed into something very pleasant. I’m also getting a dark chocolate, and a hint of pepper.
Invergordon isn’t as bad as I have made out. There is still a thriving community there, a couple of decent restaurants and pubs (stay out of the Silver Dollar, and if you do go in, remember to wipe your feet on the way out!). If you are in the area there is some spectacular scenery over the Black Isle and looking down the Cromarty Firth towards Ben Wyvis, the local Munro (hill over 3000ft).
Similarly, the tasting notes that I have given you on my impression are probably not the most attractive, but you need to give this whisky a bit of time. I am not in the habit of drinking whisky over 25 years old, and this the oldest whisky that I have reviewed so far and it is likely to remain that way for some time. Nor am I in the habit of drinking single grain whisky so this is another aspect of the whisky landscape that I am not that familiar with. However this was a great one to delve into, and while the cost of the sample is a little bit dear, it was a fantastic experience. I started the tasting not enjoying it, but once I could place the solvent like taste, it hit me between the eyes and I was converted quicker than Paul on the road to Damascus. Now, if you offer me a dram if this, I’m going to have your arm off.
My 3cl sample cost 11.70 from Master Of Malt. Unfortunately the full size bottle is sold out, but was £106.95. A bit pricey perhaps but remember it is a 42 year old whisky, and some much younger and poorer quality malts can cost more. It sometimes comes up on auction sites which if you want to add one to your cabinet would be the method I recommend.
The latest Invergordon batch of a similar age from TBWC is batch 19 and is 45 years old. Bottled at 44.5%, a 50CL bottle will set you back about £177. Good luck on finding it, as they sell out quick.
This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️
Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.
All photos – authors own.