Malt of the Moment
Inchgower is the perfect example of a long established distillery that has almost exclusively supported the blends of its owners, with Diageo today requiring significant levels of blending stock. As...
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Inchgower is the perfect example of a long established distillery that has almost exclusively supported the blends of its owners, with Diageo today requiring significant levels of blending stock. As such it is rarely seen as a single malt whisky nowadays although this is no discredit to its overall character. Even at a young age, this is a very approachable and summer-like dram with several traits to enjoy and is supported by the independent sector, who would no doubt like to acquire more stock. In general, it’s an excellent whisky and whilst relatively overlooked by many, ensures great value when a new release does appear.
The distillery was founded in 1871 on the outskirts of Buckie, taking much of its initial equipment, resources and staff from the Tochineal distillery, which had existed on the site previously. Tochineal itself dates back to 1822 and whilst superseded by a new plant, it had lain dormant before Alexander Wilson decided that it made financial sense to build a new distillery rather than refurbish his existing one.
The essential resource text that is Alfred Barnard once again proves useful as we travel back in time to the 1880’s and his epic voyage across Scotland’s distilleries. Having visited this region, he was able to explore Inchgower during its formative years and was impressed not only by this new distillery and its elderly (but superior) class of workforce, but also tales of smugglers and illicit distillers who favoured the site until a legal distillery was established. Inchgower was a self-contained enterprise offering everything that a distillery could require including a forge and cooperage. There were also houses for the workers ensuring this manually intensive enterprise was always supported.
Inchgower after its formation has a relatively calm existence and was owned by the company of Alexander Wilson until 1936, when the firm became bankrupt. Stepping into the breach is the local Buckie council, who become distillery owners for the modest fee of just £1600 before selling Inchgower for £3000 just 2 years later for a tidy profit. The new owners are Arthur Bell & Sons who for a minor outlay acquire a distillery that can support its blends and offers sizeable warehousing on site, which is mainly utilised today for maturating whiskies from other Diageo producers.
As with many distilleries during the 1960’s, a series of improvements are delivered at Inchgower to increase production. The number of stills is doubled to 4, with their lyne arms preventing significant reflux and it remains within the Arthur Bell realm until 1985 when Guinness acquires the company. After the creation of United Distilleries just a couple of years later, Inchgower finds itself being owned by a forerunner of Diageo, where it continues to this day. Another set of improvements were undertaken at the distillery in post-2010 that included replacing washbacks and a completely new mashtun.
Around 99% of Inchgower’s annual capacity of 3.2 million litres heads towards blends such as Johnnie Walker, leaving a tiny drop much like Blair Athol, for the single malt market. In terms of official bottlings, the distillery does not have a current core range to support. It did appear as part of the United Distillers Rare Malt series in the late 1990’s on 2 occasions, whilst the most widely seen release is the Flora & Fauna 14-year-old that is still widely available for under £50.
Inchgower compared to many distilleries has no single malt profile or interesting historical tales to tell. Instead it just quietly goes about its business and in recent years has been opened to visitors during the annual Spirit of Speyside festival. It’s a whisky well worth seeking out and discovering for its classic Speyside qualities.