Friday, April 23, 2010

Inver House Blended Whisky.

I'm Scottish. Clan Douglas, pretty much the clan of English-killin' and Wilde-fuckin' (and fisticuffs). And I adore scotch whisky. It's my drink of choice by a long stretch. There is nothing on earth that will make me happier than a warm glass of Laphroaig, a crisp Glenlivet, or even simple Johnny Red.

So I take it as a Cromwell-level insult that Barton Brands, the same sweltering assboils who brought us Kentucky Gentleman and Riva, would dare to try and peddle their own brand of whisky to me.
Let's look at the bottle and run down the list of things that are wrong with it:

NAME: Inver House Green Plaid. Not named after a person (Johnnie Walker, J&B, Dewar's). Not in Gaelic (virtually every single malt). No one is willing to take the blame for this, and it's not authentic enough to cobble together a string of consonants. And "green plaid," combined with all the fake heraldry on the label? Please.

Barcode right in the middle of the label. Not even on the back. There is no pride here. No honor. This whisky has been broken by the Empire and is merely shilling itself out.

"Aged 36 months." 3 years is a good age for, well, pretty much anything except scotch. If you're gonna be that hasty, why bother making scotch? That's the equivalent of microwaving a lobster dinner.

"Imported by and bottled for Barton Imports." And here it comes together. See, blended whisky is made from a wide variety of malts from different distilleries, who sell leftovers to blenders (who often distill their own, as well), who then assemble their whisky from a precise ratio and work to develop a unique flavor. There's nothing wrong with this--the flavor of Black Label can hold its own against any single malt--but in this case, I can't help but wonder exactly what this is blended from. I can only assume that it is made from the refuse of the product of every brewer indignant that you would pay 6 dollars for scotch.

There's no gag here--Ewan McGregor is simply a glorious man. And he hates me for drinking this.

A really pale golden color. Sort of an amber, a little more yellow than I like my scotch, but there's honestly nothing wrong here. I mean, Glenlivet's honestly a little lighter.

This is the primary offender. It smells like it looks--like apple juice. Apple juice undercut by an aroma of alcohol. And then undercut by a layer of whisky. It's like a turducken, if the turkey and duck were instead made from football skin and packing peanuts. Scotch is supposed to have the strongest, most nuance aroma of any liquor on earth, and yet this smells like a fucking fermented juice box.

(Portrait of the journalist courtesy of Beta Burns Babylon)

The first thing I taste when I take a swig of Inver House is the alcohol. The second thing is the fact that it's way too sweet--like, bourbon-level sweet, only again, there's that applejuice flavor. Then there's the burn, then the whisky aftertaste.

There's nothing to savor here, nothing worth sipping, just the burn and the alcohol flavor. It tastes like 4 parts J&B (which is a pretty sharp-tasting whisky to begin), 2 parts applejuice, and 4 parts Smirnoff.

I just-- how? This may be the least wretched thing I've tasted for this blog (I hate you all), but there is still nothing good about it, just a little less terrible. Again, I just don't know how you start with single malt and somehow wrangle it down to this. There's bad flavors here that shouldn't even logically exist in scotch.

First I decided to make a Flying Scotsman, although with a little jerry-rigging substitution for the sweet vermouth. This actually wasn't a bad idea, and I bet it would have been an even better way to force it down if I'd had the real stuff (I used an ounce of Riesling and a splash of merlot, with some extra sugar). The bitters also add some of the richness that Inver House sorely lacks. If you have to buy bottom-rung stuff, then, this is the way to do it (although a few drops of Angostura Bitters can actually make a lot of stuff more palatable--making an Old Fashioned out of the Jacquin's also proved to be the best way to choke that down). This, however, is mainly because Inver House is so thin and frail that the wine and bitters can really force it down and make you forget it even exists in the cocktail.
Left: Vermouth. Right: Inver House

I also tried a little half-size Smoky Martini (scotch instead of vermouth), with a couple modifications (orange twist instead of lemon, one drop of bitters for color and a little accentuation). The problem with this, of course, is that it's not a good way to get rid of the Inver House at all. At this rate, one flask of Inver will take three bottles of gin to use up, and there are so many things I'd rather do with my gin.

The other problem is that it tastes pretty bad, and burns like a bitch. You can still, sadly, taste the worst parts of the Inver House but none of the actual whisky flavor. Also, good god does it hurt the back of my throat. It's really just a ruination of good gin, and I usually don't get angry at Seagram's until I'm 3 g&t's deep.

I had shit to celebrate earlier today. I was drinking a Tito's Vodka Sling. It was amazing. That's what you should drink instead. That's the conclusion of this review: go to the store, grab a bottle of Tito's, a bottle of Angostura, and make yourself a few of those. That's the best way to drink Inver House-- to not drink it at all, and instead go for something else. Something good.

Seriously, glorious.



  2. Quite a lot of good Scotch comes from Inver House.

    "Inver House Distillers is a leading distiller of single malt whisky, owning and operating five distilleries: Old Pulteney Distillery, The Speyburn-Glenlivet Distillery, Balblair Distillery, Knockdhu Distillery and Balmenach Distillery."