Street Spirit

Taste Review #146 – Inchgower 5 – Murray McDavid Spirit of Speyside 2022

Of all the spirit swaps I’ve done, this one was probably on track to be the most depressing one, entirely due to the weather though thankfully it had its high points, for I was delivering whisky for a fellow member of the social media whisky community that I hadn’t met yet. After all, isn’t whisky the reason we are all together?

It was certainly a mission of mercy. Aberdeen Whisky Shop had a shop purchase only of a Thompson Brothers release, and my fellow whisky enthusiast couldn’t get down from Inverness to Aberdeen to collect them. These were the Craigellachie and secret Orkney bottling. Fortunately I had business in Aberdeen and was able to collect. Due to work it was harder to deliver, but met a couple of months later in a supermarket car park on the outskirts of Inverness.

Such a dreich day you’ve never seen. On the way up the A9 over the Slochd pass and past Tomatin distillery, I can’t remember having seen rain come down quite as hard. As I drove I kept repeating to myself that it had to be better in Inverness. That thought was totally fruitless, as if anything it was worse. Despite setting a time to meet, I obviously turned up early as you can never predict the time it will take you to travel on that road. Sad fact is that there are too many people on the A9 that don’t drive anywhere near the speed limit, causing frustration on the single carriageway sections. At the other end of the spectrum are those who also drive nowhere near the speed limits but in the opposite direction, mimicking a world land speed record attempt and the world’s most hazardous overtaking manoeuvre all in one go. It’s no wonder that the A9 is pretty much the most dangerous road in Scotland, with around 11 people killed in this year on the stretch between Perth and Inverness, making slow and steady in the inclement weather the order of the day.

Yeah, hanging around a carpark with the rain beating down on the roof of my car, radio on listening to the weather reports of other areas getting it just as bad didn’t fill me with joy. I was starting to feel like a drug dealer and then I started to muse as to what street drug dealers do in the winter? It’s can be fairly brutal in the darker months of freezing rain, snow and ice. But before long, my contact turned up.

This is where being chatty and forgetful almost became my downfall. For not only did I stand for a while chatting in the rain, taking my chances with pneumonia, but also as my colleague walked away, he suddenly remembered that he hadn’t paid me for the whisky. Note to self: – don’t become a drug dealer, I’ll not make money.

Whisky. Hiding it’s true colours

I got some samples as a reward for picking up the bottles and one of them was this Inchgower, bottled by Murray McDavid for the Spirit of Speyside festival. My last review was for another Spirit of Speyside release that was bottled by Murray McDavid, the 9 year old Auchroisk. This sample just to look at didn’t give anything away due to the tinted plastic bottle, so my normal colour misconceptions didn’t kick in. The age misconception did not go missing in action though. While I know that age is not the only thing to determine how good a dram will be, I can’t say that I’m over enthusiastic about drams under 10 years old. Neither am I that enthusiastic about the only regular official bottle from Inchgower distillery, the 14 year old Flora and Fauna. While not bad, it’s hardly brilliant. Only one thing for it and that’s putting it in a glass and having a go.

Inchgower 5 y.o – Spirit Of Speyside 2022 (Murray McDavid)

Region – Speyside Age – 5 y.o Strength – 53.6% abv Colour – Auburn (1.5) Cask Type – Sherry Oloroso Hogshead Colouring – No Chill Filtered -No. Nose – Sweet and rich. Dark chocolate with raspberry – a Ruffle bar for those who know, orange peel, caramel, slight leather note. Palate – Sweet to start with but takes you on a wild ride which I wasn’t prepared for. This really needed water to open it up. Stewed plums, prunes, light peppery spice. Then mid palate the flavours start a riot similar to those in 1980’s Brixton or Toxteth. Sweet, bitter flavours. Tannins from the cask give a slightly bitter taste and a slight drying effect, but then there’s a hint of salty liquorice. Then burnt sugar, then buttery caramel and back to an oily sweetness, but the spice remains. Finish – coffee, chocolate taste, treacle toffees, molasses, ginger and spice which decreases slowly. Long finish.

Hello beautiful. Where have you been hiding?

Conclusions

I haven’t sworn on this blog yet and am not away to start now, but I’m sure my wife heard me say “Duck Me” when I tasted this. Yup, this was an absolute banger. Another great whisky that’s going to be hard to get, if ever but even if I manage to lay my hands on one, it won’t be remaining closed. It certainly speaks volumes why often independent bottlings really ramp up the value aspect compared to the official releases. This was far better than the Flora and Fauna by a country mile.

I’ve often doubted my palate due to regular long stints of alcoholic abstinence and sinus problems, but not this time. There were bags of things to taste here and they weren’t hiding away. They were bursting to get out and when they escaped, the result was a flavour riot on my tongue. All too soon the dram was finished and once again I’m left with slight regrets of a whisky I’ll never taste again. At least I’ll know to hang on in there; there will be something similar waiting for me to discover it in the future.

Thank you to my whisky brother for the generous samples – I look forward to trying the others. Hope you enjoy your bottles. Finally, thanks for remembering that you hadn’t paid me. That would have made the afternoon completely dreich.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Taking an Inch doesn’t mean you’ll get a Mile.

Taste Review #70 – Inchgower 14 Flora and Fauna

It’s been a couple of months at least since I’ve reviewed a Flora and Fauna release. Since I’ve managed to bottle kill my full size Benrinnes Flora and Fauna, it was time to move onto the next one and I had a choice – Pittyvaich or Inchgower. It was a simple decision in the end as I’d already reviewed a Pittyvaich thus Inchgower it was.

Inchgower is one of those distilleries that has quite an anonymous life. Currently owned by Diageo, the distillery provides most of its output for blending, although independent bottlings are much more available. This malt is a constituent part of the Bells blend, but don’t let that count against our single malt experience.

The distillery sits just outside the Morayshire coastal town of Buckie and was founded in 1871 by Alexander Wilson. The Wilson family went bankrupt, leaving the Buckie Town Council to purchase the distillery in 1936. As far as I can tell this is the only example of a local authority in the U.K. owning a distillery. In 1938 the site was bought by Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd to provide malt whisky for its blends. Arthur Bell & Sons were later bought by Guinness and after various takeovers and mergers, the distillery came a part of the Diageo empire.

Inchgower isn’t a big distillery – it has 2 wash and 2 spirit stills, and only outputs 1.99 million litres annually. It has quite a short fermentation of 46 hours which should give a more nutty sort taste to the spirit. The distillery location isn’t that far away from the mouth of the River Spey, giving this Speyside whisky a coastal tang.

Inchgower unfortunately does not have a visitors centre, but the local area has some great scenery. The weather in coastal Morayshire experiences a local microclimate, something that was instrumental in setting up the nearby RAF bases at Kinloss and Lossiemouth as training bases. The town of Buckie is mostly fishing town and although there isn’t that much to do there, it is one end of the Speyside Way, a long distance trail that follows the River Spey, often utilising the former railway line that ran between Craigellachie and Aviemore. The Moray Coastal path also passes through the town, and it’s a short walk to the impressive Spey Bay Railway viaduct if you are in the area.

Let’s now take a wander to taste the whisky in question.


Inchgower 14 Flora & Fauna

Details

Region – Speyside; Age14 y.o; Strength – 43%; Colour – Pale Straw; Nose – Quite light and fresh. Malty, biscuity, straw, soft oak with a touch of brine there in for good measure. Vanilla, light toffee notes; Palate – Grapefruit, tannic, apple, ginger, grapes / white wine. Nutmeg. Vegetal in places, but this disappears with the addition of water. Lightly waxy in mouthfeel but not consistent – felt a bit light on occasion. ; Finish – Quite short with a nicer balance of fruit at the end to counteract the bitter tannins from the wood. Notes of brine at the end. Tempers nicely when water added.


Inchgower 14 – the dram

Conclusions

Just because it is a component of Bells, don’t judge it by the same yardstick. I’ve been lucky and enjoyed this dram from the start, but samples given to friends have been a bit of a mixed bag. Some didn’t like it, some did. Although it is not that a complex malt, it can be quite light, and the vegetal note I found could put people off. This could be due to the sharply inclined Lyne arms between the still and condenser allowing the meatier parts of the spirit to leave the still. I added water and let it sit for 10 minutes and this took a lot of the less desirable notes away.

Being a coastal distillery, the brine is present, and coupled with a light waxiness this reminds me of another Diageo coastal distillery on the opposite side of the Moray Firth, Clynelish. That too was bottled as a part of the Flora and Fauna range and also as a 14 year old, but has been re-released as a stand alone bottle and the abv upped to 46%, which may give Inchgower a boost if they decide to do the same.

I enjoy the lightness of this dram; in the past I’ve had grassy notes from this which I didn’t get this time. I did get a straw note on this occasion, but isn’t quite the same. It leads me to ask myself what has changed – my sense of taste as I age or is it the whisky making process? Whiskies do change over time, so it’s a point worth considering.

Available at less than £50 a bottle, this isn’t an expensive dram, and is worth what I paid for it. However there are better whiskies available for less. There are bitter components in here that may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s not that bad. I’d suggest trying this alongside an independently produced bottle to get a decent comparison.

Inchgower isn’t that rare but it’s not one you will see in every whisky shop, but a specialist retailer should be able to get it for you. At 43%, chill filtered and a dose of colouring means you may find better value from an independent bottle, as these are much more likely to have a higher strength, be non-chill filtered and have no colouring added.

I do recommend this dram, but I acknowledge it may not be something everybody will love. The title is a play on the phrase if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile, and while you may get the Inch(gower) but you might not enjoy the full mile of this whisky journey. It shouldn’t stop you giving it a go. After all, I like it, and surely others do. Try it in a whisky bar if you see it is available or alternatively you can get 3cl miniatures from the Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt websites.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


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Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own