Inverleven 1985-2000, 40% – Gordon & MacPhail

Inverleven used to be a small single malt facility within the Dumbarton grain whisky distillery near Glasgow. It’s been decommissioned in 1991, but interestingly enough, the stills are still in use. Initially they were bought by Mark Reinier to build a new/old distillery in Port Charlotte, but never came to fruition because the main distillery in Bruichladdich took up all the money they made in maintenance.

Now, since Mark Reinier has moved on to more emerald pastures at the newly built Waterford Distillery in Ireland, the stills are back in use there.

Inverleven made a Lowlands Single Malt whisky in the decades that it was operational, but not much has been made available. Most of the output went into the blends of Ballantine’s. Most of what you might find in auctions from Inverleven looks official but is likely to be botteld by Gordon & MacPhail as a licensed bottling, with their ‘retro labels’.

So is this one. I bought it after finally trying a nice one at some point in the last decade. I don’t exactly remember whether it was because of trying something at a tasting or at a friend’s place. Some of it got bottle-shared and about half a bottle remained on my shelf for later appraisal.

And later it got. I had a glass after opening the bottle, and then put it on the back burner for some reason. A year or so later I had another glass and was hugely disappointed. The whisky had gone completely flat. Now it might not be the biggest surprise that a very light whisky, both in character and ABV, might not withstand a lot of oxidation in the bottle, but this was really crappy.

Once again, I forgot about (or suppressed) this whisky, only for it to surface very recently. I tried it again. And, to my surprise, it seemed like it had come back from the verge of death and was a lot more flavorful than it was before. Now I know that happens, according to others, but I never experienced this with a bottle of my own. I counted myself lucky and finished the remainder of the bottle in a couple of weeks, before it went bad again and maybe wouldn’t resurface.

Very gentle and fruity on the nose. Some dry grass and straw, very flowery too. Daisies, poppies and such. Lemon, apple, star fruit.

Quite dry, some oak, fruit. Lemon, lemon oil, apple, with a hint of bitterness like the seeds. Some grass, straw, dried flowers behind it.

The finish is a bit short. Some dryness lingers, but everything else dissipates quickly.

The palate has come back to life after quite some time in the bottle. Unfortunately, the finish is a bit of a let down, which is not too surprising with a 40% whisky that’s been open this long.

The palate and nose are typical for Lowlands whiskies and show the quintessential flowery notes, with quite some fruit to come along with it. Luckily, it’s not perfumy at all, and makes for a very easy drinking, very light whisky. More of an aperitif than a digestive, since it’s not one to overpower any other flavors.

Prices for bottles like this are all over the place with Whiskybase stating € 300 (it’s a rarity after all), but in auctions it more likely to fetch € 110-140


Inverleven 1985-2000, 40%, Gordon & MacPhail


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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