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Friday, December 23, 2022

Inchgower 27 year old 1990, Special Release 2018

If you haven't resigned yourself to the fact that Diageo and Pernod Ricard (and their predecessors) have emptied thousands, if not tens of thousands, of the greatest casks of malt whisky ever made into their mass market blends over the past century, then......well......keep walking drinking, my brothers and sisters.

Inchgower is one of the What-If distilleries that always come to mind. It's been one of the main malts in Bell's for at least 85 years, and I've always wondered, "What if the malt was allowed to shine and develop as one of the Classic Malts?" Yeah, there have been Flora & Fauna bottlings, but I've yet to have an F&F that has left me thinking that I was getting anything better than middle-of-the-road casks from any of the distilleries, with perhaps Dailuaine being the only exception.

Thankfully, Diageo offers up a Special Release series each year. Unthankfully, the prices ceased being reasonable almost a decade ago. But all those bottlings have not blasted off the shelves. Today's 27yo Inchgower was released more nearly five years ago, but can still be found for its original SRP at primary markets in North America, Europe and Asia. It wasn't priced too extravagantly, often below $400. But who was paying $400 for non-single-cask Inchgower in 2018. Hell, who is paying $400 for single cask Inchgower now? Though I don't make a habit of spending $200 on a bottle I've never tried, this release could have been an exception at that price. But here we are, 2023 is approaching and I have finally sourced a sample.

A pinch to grow 'er an Inch?

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Series: Special Releases 2018
Age: 27 years (1990 - 2018)
Maturation: refill hogsheads
Outturn: 8544 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.3%
(from a bottle split)


Honey on cornbread. Mint, apple peels, lychee and lemon bars. The nose starts very nicely. American oak appears in the background a little later, offering bananas, cream puffs and Boston cream pastries. The palate launches with malt, tart lemons and ginger candies. Salt and vanilla drift through the background. It's never too sweet, and it does have some savoriness here and there. The simple but long finish shows orange zest, ginger and cinnamon.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Fruits (guava, lychee and apple) and spices (cardamom and clove) arrive first in the nose, followed by some old dusty oak. The palate reads sweeter now with lots of citrus candy. A tangy chile or two, and a dash of salt, add some balance. Gentle tannins arrive later. It finishes with citrus candy, guava and honey.


One gets the sense that, out of the 40+ hoggies forming this batch, there were a few rich second fills and a few lean fourth fills. It's all blended together pretty well. The fruit's allowed to sing, and the oak never bullies its way to the fore, so it works for my nose and palate. I'm not sure if Diageo will ever offer a Inchgower at this age again, so perhaps $300 isn't too unreasonable in this market. What say ye, Inchgower fans out there?

Availability - Not too hard to find
Pricing - $250-$450
Rating - 88