Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Whisky Review: Hepburn's Choice Inchgower 20 Year 1995/2015 for K&L

Inchgower is one more of Diageo's almost countless distilleries that primarily produces for blends. While there have been a few official bottlings in the Flora & Fauna and Rare Malts lines, if you want to try Inchgower as a single malt you have to turn to independent bottlers.

This whisky was distilled in 1995, filled into a sherry butt, then bottled in 2015 for K&L Wines at 57.5% without coloring or chill filtration.

Hepburn's Choice Inchgower 20 Year 1995/2015 for K&L

Nose: richly sherried, sweet raisins, underlying malt, molasses, gentle coastal/herbal notes, cacao, dark but not strong oak, a touch of orange peel, buttery, peanuts, vanilla. After adding a few drops of water the buttery and herbal notes are amplified, the sherry is drier, and some wood spices and a little bit of balsamic vinegar come out.

Taste: a fair amount of alcohol heat throughout, moderate sweetness up front, thick layer of sherry on top of dry malt throughout, moderate oak and raspberries beginning in the middle, fresh/bitter herbs near the back. After dilution it becomes more bittersweet overall, with the sherry and oak integrating, but otherwise remaining largely unchanged in structure.

Finish: sherry residue, herbal, alcohol heat, dry malt

While there were a lot of things I enjoyed about this whisky, it's not a crowd-pleaser. This goes a way towards explaining why a 20 year old sherry cask whisky that was on sale for $100, an absolute steal on paper in this day and age, didn't sell out very quickly. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Tobermory, with its slightly bitter herbal quality and coastal notes, which also goes a way towards explaining why this one had comparatively limited appeal.

Diluted to 50%

Nose: dry sherry and malt, raspberry/strawberry overtones, gently herbal and pine-y, pink bubblegum, vanilla

Taste: sherried sweetness with some vanilla up front, quickly joined by a significant amount of oak tannins, followed by herbal flourishes near the back

Finish: sherry residue, thick oak tannins, pleasantly herbal

While not unpleasant, there was nothing about this strength that improved it over the undiluted whisky. With that said, it also didn't fall apart, which all too often happens with cask strength whiskies.

Diluted to 45%

Nose: thin and vague - indistinct sherry, malt, floral vanilla, and oak

Taste: extremely oaky and tannic throughout, sherry rides in the background but can't rescue it from the bitterness

Finish: very bitter - waves of oak tannins with sherry in the background and herbal hints

This is so far from the full strength malt that I have a feeling the sample may have gone bad. With time it got a bit more balanced and showed some of what I had found in the full strength malt, but it still felt very off. While it's possible that this was an artifact, I would be careful about how much water you add if you have a bottle of this whisky.

For some slightly different perspectives, be sure to check out MAO and Michael K's reviews.

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