Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Whisky Review: Maltbarn Invergordon 27 Year 1988/2015

Invergordon is the only remaining grain whisky distillery in Scotland outside the Lowlands. Owned by Whyte & Mackay, it is the only remaining grain whisky distillery that exclusively uses maize. It churns out a vast 40 million liters of spirit every year. As with other grain distilleries, only a minuscule fraction of this output is bottled as single grain whisky, but a decent number of casks make their way into the hands of independent bottlers.

This was distilled in 1988, filled into an ex-bourbon cask, and bottled in 2015 at 51.3% without coloring or chill filtration.

Maltbarn Invergordon 27 Year 1988/2015

Nose: acetone, coconut, diacetyl, corn, marshmallow/pink bubblegum, dry grass, musty oak. After adding a few drops of water the corn and coconut notes integrate, some light perfume, a touch of raisin, and toasted oak come out.

Taste: very sweet, increasingly creamy/buttery, coconut overtones, big artificial fruit flavor around the middle, becoming more drying with bigger coconut towards the back. After dilution the sweetness becomes more clearly corn based, the coconut transforms into raisin, the buttery character is amplified and spreads out, and more oak comes out at the back giving it a more bitter character.

Finish: dry corn grain, slightly bitter grass/oak, coconut

The difference between the maize-based mashes used by Invergordon and the wheat-based mashes used by most other modern grain distillers couldn't be more clear. The coconut notes seem to be a hallmark of Invergordon, which can be off-putting for a lot of people, but water tames some of that character and makes it more approachable. This is something I could see myself drinking and using effectively in blends, but given that it ran around $130, the value isn't there. At half that price, maybe, but I have yet to try a grain whisky that was anywhere near as good as a comparably priced malt.

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