A while ago, I went on a family vacation to Italy. We hit a number of stops in Tuscany and then spent the last few days in Rome. As luck would have it, there was a great liquor store down the street from our hotel in Rome. G-LO had sent me in search of something from Samaroli and this was my first opportunity to do a thorough search. With my cheaters on, I lingered long over the counter as the whisky was shelved behind it. I must have lingered too long or looked too sad trying to read from that great a distance. The clerk took pity on me and suggested that I step behind the counter and have at it. While I did come across something from Samaroli, none of the bottles were from distilleries that I hadn’t already tried. As I moved from shelf to shelf, I was drawn to one that had a number of “dusties”. After several rounds of “Eenie meanie miney mo”, I selected a 22 yr. old Inchgower from Cadenhead, a bottle of Something Special, and a 29 yr. old Glen Albyn.
My plan for these bottles was as follows: one bottle would enter the regular rotation for our weekend “therapy” sessions; one bottle would go to Pappy; and one bottle would go under the house for safe keeping. For Pappy, I chose the Inchgower. We had had the opportunity to sample an Inchgower courtesy of Miracle Max at a bottle share at the ROK’s, and since I recall really enjoying it, I thought that Pappy might like this bottle too. Never let it be said that I’m a bad son.
Well, as it turns out, Pappy told me that he was’t a fan of the Inchgower. Rather than have him work his way through a bottle he didn’t care for, I suggested that I would take the bottle back and provide him with an alternative. I picked out a bottle of the Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask and made arrangements to exchange one bottle for the other. Imagine my surprise when I got home to find that more than half of the Inchgower was gone. I feel I was once again bamboozled by Pappy. Boy oh boy, if he didn’t like the bottle and downed half of it, imagine what would he have done if he actually liked it?
Anyway, I am left with the remnants (note the contents of the bottle in the above photo) of what I expect will be a fine bottle of whisky and Pappy has a brand, spanking new bottle.
A little bit about Cadenhead…
William Cadenhead established the bottling company in 1842. He joined many other small bottlers who rather than blend the products of various distilleries (as was common practice in the 19th and early 20th century) sought to bottle the product of individual distilleries. Over time as distillers have bottled their own product and single cask and cask strength whiskies have become more in vogue, the number of independent bottlers has dwindled. Today, Cadenhead is one of the few that remains, and is Scotland’s oldest independent bottler.
And a little bit about Inchgower…
Inchgower distillery is a lower Speyside malt that was built in 1871 on the outskirts of Buckie, Moray, Scotland. The distillery had a relatively short first life as it was liquidated in 1903. Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd obtained ownership in 1938 and revived the brand. Today, Inchgower operates 4 stills (2 wash stills, 2 spirit stills), has a capacity of over 525,000 gallons, is a major component of Bell’s blended whisky, and is owned by Diageo. It does not appear that Inchgower bottles anything under the Inchgower name, so the only way to obtain one is through an independent bottler like Cadenhead.
And now for the review…
- Appearance: Clover honey with a lot of legs.
- Aroma: Stone fruits (peaches, plums), buttercream icing, toffee.
- Taste: Not as spicy as one would think for 55.1% ABV. Velvety with a bit of pepper on the tongue. Then, a nice hit of syrupy sugars (peaches in heavy syrup), buttered toffee, and sherry. The finish is mildly spicy with some cinnamon heat that lingers long into the finish. Oddly, the finish was reminiscent of the burn of Listerine (all in your mouth) as compared to a more traditional warming heat.
- ABV: 55.1%
I found this to be a bit of mixed bag; a fantastic aroma and a whole lot of flavors upfront and mid-palate, but a little bit of a disappointment in the finish. Without water, it seemed a little too spicy for a little too long (especially the slightly off-putting Listerine effect). I wonder if Pappy failed to realize that this was cask strength and didn’t properly cut it with water. That may have led to his comment that something was off in the finish. With water, the finish was a little muted, some of the lingering spice was reduced to vapors, and the whisky was far more enjoyable. Overall, I would say this was a good whisky, but not a great one.