As the British Empire dwindled after World War II, England itself began to re-build and revive. By the 1950’s, the country experienced a period of relatively intense prosperity. A welcome by-product of all this prosperity was an uptick in demand for whisky. A less-welcome by-product of all this prosperity was a shortage of whisky thanks to the aforementioned uptick in demand. Late in the decade the last rationing restrictions on grain and distilling were lifted, and both newcomers and established companies saw opportunities to fill the demand by building new distilleries. Several single malt distilleries opened, including Toremore and Glen Keith, and to satisfy the needs of blended Scotch, several grain distilleries opened as well, the most notable being Girvan and Invergordon.
While Girvan was owned by the well-established William Grant & Sons, relative newcomers to the industry were behind Invergordon. Construction began on the Highland-based facility in 1959, and spirit began flowing in 1961. In 1993, Invergordon fell under the Whyte & Mackay umbrella where it remains today, mostly servicing their line of blends. Whyte & Mackay of course has had a dizzying run of ownership changes over the last two or three decades, but to be frank, that seems boringly off-topic at the moment so let’s just stick with this particular whisky, shall we?
This 30 year old single grain from the Creative Whisky Company’s Exclusive Malts range was distilled in 1984 while I sat though high school classes in a punk/indie haze. The number of bottles in this, uh, bottling seems a little mysterious to me. The label states 608 bottles of the expression. The literature states it was matured in a refill hogshead. Hogsheads have a capacity of around 238 liters, which translates to around 317 750ml bottles. Of course, a 30 year old whisky is going to lose around 2% a year to the angels, which drops the liquid in that hogshead to closer to roughly 130 liters at best. 130 liters makes 173 750ml bottles. At 52.3% alcohol, this certainly could be a cask strength whisky, though even if they did add a bit of water, there’s no way they’re extending it from 173 bottles to 608. So what does this mean, how did one hogshead, “cask #8005”, yield such an extraordinary number of bottles? It could mean I might be mis-reading the whole thing, and it’s not really an issue. It could also mean there’s a bit of information missing. One possibility is that the information is wrong, though that seems unlikely. Another possibility is that, even though the label states a single cask number, this could be a vatting of several casks. Other than that cask number, there’s not much on the label that directly states it came from a single cask. Whatever the reason, for a whisky of this age, provenance, and price, I think it’s important for the producer to be more accurate and transparent about what’s in the bottle. On to the whisky…
The Nose: Hot wood! Initially, there’s a surprising bit of alcohol, which does subside after a little time in the glass. After that, there’s quite a bit of complex wood and straightforward spice, with brown sugar, apple pie, and a touch of caramelized banana lending a sweeter side. The wood is both vibrant and deep with old, worn oak, and newer sanded boards. There’s cinnamon and sugar mix, allspice, soft clove, vanilla, and a bit of horehound. Any hints as to the grain are subtle, a little creamed corn hanging in the background perhaps.
The Palate: Wonderfully creamy, weighty mouthfeel. There’s some of the same dark sugar and grain sweetness from the nose, but that’s quickly joined by strong wood and spice notes. Obviously, there’s more oak here, like sucking an oak stave soaked in whisky…but in a good way. Lots of structured tannins, balanced and progressive, and more spice, though it’s earthier now. Greenish clove, a bit of coriander, fine ground pepper, and a just a bit of fennel.
The Finish: Would you believe more oak and spice? The sweetness recedes quickly, leaving more of those mature tannins, fine ground pepper and drying clove.
Thoughts: Darn good stuff. There’s a surprising amount of alcoholic heat to this one, though like i said, with a little time that dissipates. I was left with a pretty heady essay on oak and spice. The wood dominates the flavor profile to be sure, but it’s not necessarily overpowering, showing a lot of complexity and integrating fairly well with the subtler notes. The spice shifts from softer to edgier from nose to palate and that helps to balance all that bold wood. Water isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does a nice job balancing the nose, palate, and finish even further. At $200 a bottle, price and value-wise, it’s tough to call. 30 year old single malts and even some grain whiskies are often much more expensive so I suppose in that regard it’s well priced.
The Exclusive Malts 1984 Invergordon 30 Year Old, Single Grain, IB +/-2015