Thanks to the excellent people at Master of Malt for the sample.
As far as I can tell…or at least as far as my prerequisite 10 minutes of google-ing can tell me, the name Inchgower means “the goat’s isle”. The only mention I found of this was from a book entitled “Geographical Etymology: A Dictionary of Place-names Giving Their Derivations” by Christina Blackie which was published in 1887. It should come as a surprise to pretty much no one that I have zero background in the Gaelic language, so when I guess that Inchgower is a derivation Innis Gobhar, you know that guess has absolutely no merit whatsoever. It sounds good, though, right?
If Inchgower indeed does mean “the goat’s isle”, it’d be interesting to learn if the name referred to some small nearby island on which resided a locally famous goat, or if it referred to the entire island of Great Britain. Perhaps Alexander Wilson & Co., who founded the distillery in 1871, was particularly fond of goats (it happens) and in a fit of wishful thinking named it thusly. I certainly don’t know, hell, I’m outside of my comfort zone even thinking about goats on an island. In any case, this bottling from Master of Malt was distilled in 1982, aged in a refill hogshead for 29 years, and bottled in 2011 as part of their single cask series.
The Nose: A delightfully different nose full of honeyed malt – deeply sweet and a touch floral, and fresh raspberries and blackberries. Strong secondary notes of lemon bars with vanilla icing. Behind that, there are hints of fresh-cut wood (pine), fresh ginger, lemon pith, and just a touch of clove. A bit of water brings out more woodspice notes whilst calming the fruit and sweetness.
The Palate: More floral, slightly herbal honey initially, with coarse vanilla bean and lemon zest preceding a swell of slightly salty and nutty, slightly bitter toasted grain. The wood finally makes more of an appearance in the form of more raw ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and waxy pine. Water stretches out the palate a bit, playing up the lemon zest and wood influenced spice notes more at the end.
The Finish: Just a touch of the honey, with the earthy wood spice, a bit of salt, and unsweetened cocoa remaining.
Thoughts: With a surprisingly vibrant nose and palate for 29 years old, this one has a really interesting array and progression of flavors, yet less wood influence than you’d think. Though water tames some of the cask strength heat, in this case, it also tames some of the unique complexity this one has, instead making it seem more youthful and more cask-influenced at the same time. I preferred it neat. Leave it to Master of Malt to pick an intriguing cask from an intriguing distillery you rarely hear anything from. If you can find it, definitely give it a try.