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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Two sherry cask 1995 Inchgowers from the Laings

Sherry cask Inchgowers are somewhat scarce. The Laing companies seem to have 90% of the casks, which I don't entirely understand. That they would be enthusiastic about the stuff is reasonable; yet almost no other indie bottler is. Inchgower can be a quirky spirit, but it seems to do very well in a vibrant cask.

All three sherry cask Inchgowers that I have previously tried were great. So great that I went ahead bought a bottle of another sherry cask Inchgower. Blindly. 😱. One could say I was pretty excited about this Taste Off.

Inchgower 19 year old 1995 Old Malt Cask (Hunter Laing), sherry butt 11402, 50%abv

Right up front, the nose is strange. Wet wool, mold, raw alcohol. But also plum wine and apricots. After 20 minutes there's caramel sauce and fermenting apples. After 30 minutes, dark chocolate, prunes and more caramel. The palate is quirky, though it's a bit filthy and earthy, almost peaty. But also bursting with citrus and blackberries, with a subtle grassy undertone. There's a soy sauce and sesame oil combo happening in the background, and it kinda works. At the 30 minute mark there's some manuka honey and burnt raisins. It finishes with the palate's fruit and nose's fustiness. Then some raisins, vanilla and a hint of tannin.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose's oddities have calmed. Now it's dunnage and a tiny bit of peat. Prunes and chocolate make up the rest. The palate is sweeter, with more generic sherry cask notes (raisins, prunes). But there's also a savory note that meets up with orange candy. It gets very very sweet, and that sugariness goes right into the finish. Vanilla, golden raisins and lemons. The savory note lingers here.

Inchgower 20 year old 1995 Old Particular (Douglas Laing), refill sherry butt 10880, 51.5%abv

Oats on the nose. Oats and barley and lemons. Feels very raw and young. Roses and rock candy. The whole thing gets grainier with time. No sign of sherry cask to be found. Except, maybe, rubber. The palate leads with barley, burlap and cardboard. Sand, plastic and ethyl heat. A little bit tanginess and cayenne pepper, which also carries over into the finish, as does the sand, heat and plastic. Like a polluted beach.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose perks up a little. Barley, honey and oranges. But also fabric and alcohol. Barley, dried herbs and something meaty linger about in the palate, as does cardboard and plastic. The finish is papery, grainy and herbal.

The 19 year old is weird, but has its charms. I like the earthy, musty, phenolic notes. And there's a good spot somewhere between 10- and 30-minute mark after the whisky is poured. Its character is constantly on the move, which is entertaining but also slightly annoying. Diluting it to 46% straightens it out and declutters, but also risks turning it into just another generic sherry cask Speysider. It gets points for amusement but falls short of my previous experiences with sherry cask Inchgowers.

The 20 year old comes from one dead ass cask. Possibly a dead ass cask in a warm warehouse corner. Sometimes it's reminiscent of the tragic Dewar Rattray Auchentoshan (also 20yo and from a sherry cask) I reviewed last year. Sometimes it's almost recommendable for nosing purposes. The good news is it's devoid of vanilla and tannin. And there's plenty of barley rolling around the nose and palate. I'm hard-pressed to say anything else positive about it.

The two main takeaways today: I will not be buying another sherry cask Inchgower blindly anytime soon, and I'm beginning to understand the reluctance of all the other indie bottling companies.

Inchgower 19 year old 1995 Old Malt Cask (Hunter Laing)
Rating - 82

Inchgower 20 year old 1995 Old Particular (Douglas Laing)
Rating - 72

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