This week's review pits four independent bottlings of different ages against one another, and they're all from one distillery: Linkwood.
This is the first of two Linkwood-related posts and the second post will follow next week.
The four bottlings are as follows:
Rather than launch into an in-depth explanation of the distillery's history in this post, I have decided to keep that for next week's Linkwood post as it is a rather interesting story.
What I will say about the distillery is that it is universally adored by both owners Diageo, who use it in a multitude of blends, as well as other blenders who have the fortune of coming into contact with the whisky during their blending endeavours.
The whisky which is produced at Linkwood distillery is known for covering a range of flavours, including fresh, fruity, green and grassy while incorporating a rather powerful mouthfeel. As such, it is seen as a unifier of sorts as it harmonises the blend of malt and grain whiskies which make up a blended whisky.
Linkwood is most commonly used in the Johnnie Walker range of blended whiskies and is an important component of Johnnie Walker Black Label blended whisky as well as one of the four signature whiskies that make up Johnnie Walker Green Label blended malt whisky (the other components are of course Talisker, Cragganmore and Caol Ila).
This review will focus more on the four independent bottlings of Linkwood and the bottlers themselves, who have a storied and interesting history which is just as engrossing as that of the distillery.
Today's review focuses on bottlings of Linkwood whisky from three different independent brands: Dun Bheagan, Wemyss Malts and Old Malt Cask.
The first in line is the Dun Bheagan brand owned by independent bottlers Ian Macleod, who are also the owners of Glengoyne and Tamdhu distilleries while being blenders of some repute. Their Dun Bheagan range of single malt whiskies are all either single cask or small batch representations of distilleries from the Speyside, Highland or Islay regions.
The whiskies are bottled at a standard abv of 46% without any added colouring or chill-filtration, thus ensuring that the whiskies are as natural as possible.
Next up are Wemyss Malts, which is a brand owned by the Wemyss family. They produce a range of exceptional single cask whiskies bottled at 46% abv as well as a range of highly celebrated blended malt whiskies, including The Hive, Spice King, Peat Chimney and the award-winning Kiln Embers.
The company also produced a range of blended whiskies under the brand Lord Elcho and also purchased the fledgling Kingsbarns distillery in Fife in early 2014.
Finally, Old Malt Cask is a brand which produces a range of single cask whiskies from various distilleries and always bottled at a rather unusual 50% abv. While the brand is now owned by Hunter Laing and Company Ltd, it was once owned by fellow independent bottlers Douglas Laing & Co.
Stewart Laing, the founder of Hunter Laing, was once a part of Douglas Laing and ran it with his brother Fred. But after discussions, both brothers decided to go their separate ways in 2013 and demerged the company, thus allowing the creation of Hunter Laing and Company Ltd which took control of the Old Malt Cask brand along with other notable names which were once a part of Douglas Laing.
Interestingly enough, the Linkwood 21 Years Old bottling from Old Malt Cask displays the name Douglas Laing & Co on the front as it was bottled prior to the demerger whereas the name doesn't appear on the Linkwood 16 Years Old bottling from Old Malt Cask as it was bottled after the demerger took place.
So, let's get to the reviews!
Linkwood 1999 13 Years Old (46% abv, Bottled by Dun Bheagan)
Nose: Fresh, fruity and grassy on initial entry, which is typical for a Linkwood. There are herbal notes which are reminiscent of oregano, as well as summer fruits (apricots and peaches) and a hint of honeysuckle. Spicy elements emerge with time, with white pepper, cinnamon and some nutmeg present. There is a slight soapiness and a green element to this nose.
Palate: Initial entry is not as fruity or as expressive as the nose suggests, with white pepper, honeysuckle and grass rather apparent. The summer fruits from the nose emerge after some time, but once again is rather restrained in comparison. Rather refreshing on the palate, with that typical Linkwood freshness definitely apparent.
Finish: Medium in length, with the cinnamon and floral notes carrying right through.
Balance: At 13 years old, this feels rather youthful and the palate is perhaps not as refined as older expressions from the distillery. That being said, it is a nice entry-level introduction to the distillery and what it is capable of.
Linkwood 1996 16 Years Old (50% abv, Bottled by Hunter Laing for their Old Malt Cask range)
Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Rather robust on initial entry, which might be due to the higher alcoholic strength of this expression. There is a pronounced fruity note which is reminiscent of a trio of apricot, peaches and lemon citrus. The typical Linkwood grassy and fresh notes are definitely apparent, with a slightly soapy and floral element also in play.
Palate: Sweet and fruity on the palate, but once again not as expressive as the nose suggests. Relatively light and somewhat spicy on the palate, which is somewhat reminiscent of a combination of menthol and white pepper. Grassy, savoury and quite full on the palate, but smooth enough to not require water even at 50% abv.
Finish: Medium to long finish, with the spice and fruit notes being the dominant elements in this dram. It does display a hint of sherry, but it is rather understated and prefers to stay in the background.
Balance: Slightly skewed towards the spicy end of things, but a very good dram nonetheless. The mouthfeel is slightly drying.
Linkwood 1997 16 Years Old 'Citrus Burst' (46% abv, bottled by Wemyss Malts)
Nose: A pronounced lemony citrus element on initial entry, with the typical Linkwood freshness and grass notes on display. Apricots and peaches in abundance along with hints of menthol and mint. Just a touch of black pepper.
Palate: Sweet and slightly spicy, with elements of cardamom and black pepper apparent. Apricots, peaches and lemon on the full palate, along with a slightly savoury character to the mouthfeel. Easy to drink and very smooth.
Finish: Fleeting grassy notes coupled with black pepper, menthol and hints of apricot and lemon on the medium to long finish.
Balance: A rather well balanced dram, with the sweet, fruity and spicy elements working in concert with one another. The mouthfeel is rather drying towards the end.
Linkwood 1991 21 Years Old (50% abv, Bottled by Hunter Laing for their Old Malt Cask range)
Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Intense fruitiness and sweetness on initial entry, while somewhat deviating from what one would expect from a typical Linkwood nose. Very smooth and sophisticated, while not exhibiting as much of a grassy note as other Linkwoods. Summer fruits (apricots, white grapes and peaches) coupled with a light sherried sweetness and a pronounced floral note make this a very enticing dram.
Palate: Relatively sweet and slightly spicy on the palate, with citric elements, apricots, white grapes and peaches very much in play. A melange of spices are also on display, with black pepper, allspice and nutmeg particularly dominant. There is a certain elegance to the mouthfeel of this dram and it sets it apart from the others.
Finish: Medium on the finish, with the sweet and spicy elements working very well with the floral and fruity notes.
Balance: A very well balanced dram which is dangerously drinkable and a very good representation of what the distillery is capable of. If anything, this dram showcases just how good the whisky from Linkwood gets with age and is truly something which needs to be sipped and savoured.
All four bottles of Linkwood are sold at the bar and can be purchased by the dram, with prices ranging from $27 to $42 (with an additional 10% service charge levied on top). Patrons are also able to purchase all four expressions by the bottle for takeaway purposes, with prices ranging from $193 to $303 per bottle.
Or online at www.thesinglecask.sg
Written by Brendan Pillai for The Single Cask.
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