The Inchgower Distillery is largely unknown even among whisky lovers. A slightly maritimer Speyside malt whisky, Inchgower is released as part of the Flora & Fauna bottling, otherwise it’s usually found only independently bottled as single malt. The distillery whiskey is mainly found in Bell’s blends.
Inchgower Whisky Distillery
Inchgower distillery is located near the fishing village of Buckie, just off the A98 from Fochabers towards Fraserburgh close to the Speyside border. The distillery cannot be visited.
How does Inchgower single malt taste?The Inchgower is relatively unknown, which is a pity if one considers its unusual taste for the Speyside whisky region. While Speyside whiskies aregenerally classified as light and flowery, Inchgower is somewhat salty, almost maritime like a whisky with a spicy character. The Inchgower Whiskey has earned the nickname ‘the Manzanilla of Speyside’ because it has the same fascinating and inimitable characteristics as this particular form of sherry from Spain.
Another characteristic of Inchgower’s single malt Scotch whiskey is that it has salty overtones and is reminiscent of island whiskey. Many an extremely long-standing whiskey from the 70s or 80s is now finding its way onto the market as a rare malt or as another limited edition and is tempting collectors. Such inchgower whiskey is often released without dyes and filtration, sometimes even as a single cask in cask strength. .
Today, more than half of the annual production is sold to other companies, the rest is in the ‘Diageo’ proprietary blends such as the Johnnie Walker, Vat 69, J&B Bell’s, White Horse or the Black & White. Only around one percent is bottled as a single malt. Outwith the Flora and Fauna series and the the 1974 Rare Malts series Inchgower seldom sees official releases. However independent bottlers such as Douglas Laing, That Boutique-y Whiskey Company and Signatory frequently release Inchgower.
Inchgower operated its own malting floors and a cooperage until the 1960s. Today Inchgower obtains its non-smoky malt from the company’s own large-scale malting plant in Burghead, which produces 20 miles west of Buckie. The first step in the distillery is to grist the malt in a very small room in an old Boby four-roll mill or Porteus roll mill from 1928. The mill should be replaced to grind the 13 batches of 8 tons of barley per week. The water for production is drawn from springs on the slopes of the Menduff Hills. For the cooling processes, water is taken from the Burn of Buckie flowing past the distillery.
The processing of a filling of the semi-loud mash tun (mash tun) made of stainless steel with a capacity of 8 tons takes around 6 ½ hours. In the second inlet, work is carried out at high temperature, as a result of which the grain notes disappear. The result is a spicy sugary “cloudy” word (= seasoning).
The fermentation house with 2 rooms, in which the 6 washbacks are distributed, was expanded in 2012. Each Mashtun batch provides the filling for one of the six wooden washbacks of around 40,000 liters. The fermentation is started with kiln yeast. Since 2006, the yeast has been added to the wash using a “closed yeast pitching system”, which gives better control over the fermentation.
In the distillery there are four pear-shaped stills, two 12,500 liter wash and two 7,236 liter low wine stills, as well as the Spirit and Sample Safe and a wooden spirit receiver. Due to the straight sides of the stills, the distillation is relatively quick and creates an oily characterful spirit. The new make is cut between 70 to 55% ABV with an average strength of 65/66% ABV. The alcohol vapors are cooled using a standard Shell and Tube condenser.
Barrels are filled at a standard 63.5% ABV, maturation taking place in a combination of sherry and ex-bourbon barrels. There are 5 traditional dunnage warehouses and 8 racked warehouses on site at the Ingower Distillery, which offer space for a total of 60,000 barrels. This is around 2% of the annual production. However, barrels from other Diageo whiskey distilleries also mature in the warehouses.
Alexander Wilson & Co. owners of the Tochieneal Distillery, already running into capacity issues and facing a doubling of their ground rent tool the decision to close the distillery and move their existing equipment to a new site. The new distillery called Inchgower was completed in 1971 near Cullen and began producing alcohol in the same year. In 1930, Alexander Wilson & Co. filed for bankruptcy and production ceased. To create needed jobs in the region, the town of Buckie bought the distillery in 1936 for £ 1,600.
In 1938, Arthur Bell & Sons took over the distillery for £ 3,000 as they desperately needed manufacturing facilities for their successful Bells Blended Whiskey. Inchgower was the third company distillery after Blair Athol and Dufftown. Power was converted from coal to steam, and the large warehouses were renovated and began to provide bonding space for other distilleries in the region.
In 1966 the distillery was again modernised, the direct firing of the stills was switched to indirect steam heating and the production was doubled by adding two additional stills. Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd. was acquired by Guinness in 1985 which since their merger with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 has made Inchgower part of Diageo.
In 2006, the operation of the Inchgower Distillery was suspended for one year to renovate the entire facility. A modern change was the installation of a closed yeast pitching system which automatically added the yeast to the wash providing better control over the fermentation. 2012 again saw renewal of various devices including the Mash tun and expansion of the wash (fermentation) house.
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|Active||1871 - Present||Malt||Inchgower||Not Available|
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1871: The company Alexander Wilson & Co founded Inchgower
1936: The Buckie Town Council bought the distillery after Alexander Wilson & Co went bankrupt
1938: Arthur Bell & Sons take over the distillery
1966: The production capacity is doubled with another pair of stills
1992: Licensed to Arthur Bell & Sons plc.
1985: Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd. was acquired by Guinness
1987: DCL merges with Arthur Bell, creating United Distillers
1997: Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan to create Diageo