Linkwood 18yo 1991/2010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)

Another Linkwood then. Linkwood is quite a difficult distillery for me. Somehow I don’t seem to like Linkwood that much, and I don’t buy any of Linkwood without tasting it first. This one I did buy blind. First of all I like Raymond Armstrong (the former owner of Bladnoch Distillery) and just like Dutch independent bottlers The Ultimate were/are able to bottle some great Whisky at very fair prices. Luckily a lot of my tasting is done blind, so it’s not the name that makes for a lower score. Don’t get me wrong, I did come across some good Linkwoods as well. So with an open mind let’s have a got at this 18yo Linkwood.

Linkwood 18yo 19912010 (52.9%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #10346, 252 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Acetone, unmistakable. Nail polish remover. Lots of sappy leaves too. Quite nutty as well. Well not dull isn’t it. This spirit jumps right out of my glass. The acetone seems to “remove” itself, but it’s just me not smelling it anymore since it tries to anesthetize me. Put it away for a minute and smell it again, and you’ll be hit in the head again. Even though some might like it, it most definitely is flawed. Nice wood underneath it all. Coffee, cloves and some mocha-cream. Hazelnut pastry. Vanilla, hints of lemon and even a bit perfumy after a while. If you factor out the solvent, this is quite a bold body from a highly active and spicy cask. Quite nice but with a rather unusual defect. No I don’t hate it. Maybe this needs to oxidize a bit?

Taste: For a brief moment there is a solvent. It is quite hot, but the solvent (not ethanol) is quickly replaced by a more woody and leafy aroma. Woody and nutty. Sweet, with a lot of vanilla. Even though the solvent part seems to dissipate for a while, the whole stays quite hot and overpowering, just as it did with the nose. Freshly painted wood and freshly sawn, not entirely dry, oak. The feeling something other than Whisky is going down my throat. Medium finish.

In a way this was difficult to score (but not really). First of all I liked it maybe a bit more than I scored it, but I don’t think this isn’t one to finish quickly. Quality wise this couldn’t score very high since it has some obvious flaws, not exactly from the middle cut maybe? (although hard to imagine).

Points: 79

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Balmenach 26yo 1983/2010 (52.8%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #2410, 201 bottles)

After an Inchgower I reviewed earlier, here’s another example from the likes of Raymond Armstrong. If he isn’t distilling his Bladnoch, he’s on the look-out for casks of sometimes unusual distilleries. Worth a look, since he isn’t charging a lot of money for these forum bottlings. By the way, his son, Martin, has even more cask strength single cask whiskies on offer.

Balmenach was licensed in 1824, but existed much longer as an illicit farm distillery called Balminoch. Not earlier than 1992 the first official bottling is released, a 12yo Flora and Fauna. Not long after this United Distillers (now: Diageo) sold Balmenach to Inver House Distillers, with wich came an end to the Flora and Fauna bottling.

The new owners released between 2000 and 2002 only three rare bottles. A 27yo from 1973, a 28yo from 1972 and a 25yo from 1977 celebrating the queens jubilee (still shaped bottle). No more official bottlings have emerged yet. Today Balmenach is owned by Thai Beverages.

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet and malty. Citrus, oranges with creamy wood and custard. Very powdery and paper like. Clean, what you smell is what you get. Creamy wood is the main part, but nothing overpowering. Candied apricots. Hints of cigarette smoke.

Taste: Spicy wood, sweet and sour. The sweet and sour is fruity. Again candied apricots and bitter lemon peel. Lemon with vanilla. Quite sweet and a lot of wood and bitterness in this one. Warming beer with its hoppy finish.

Actually a quite nice whisky. Fruity, overall likeable, with just one ‘flaw’. It’s quite woody and bitter. Although not overpowering.

Points: 84

Thanx to Erik L. for bringing the bottle!

Inchgower 28yo 1982/2010 (50.7%, Bladnoch Forum, Hogshead #6966, 222 bottles)

And here is another Whisky that stands atop of my lectern. This time an Inchgower bottled by Raymond Armstrong, the owner of Bladnoch Distillery. Bladnoch was founded in 1817, and Raymond bought it in 1995 and opened it again in 2000. Well this “Raymondo” has a website, and if that’s not all, he even has a forum. Well if you think that’s it now, wait, it gets better! Raymond buys casks of other distilleries’ whisky, bottles them, and sells them to members of the Bladnoch Distillery Forum. And it has to be said, he does that at very, very reasonable prices.

Now we move on to Inchgower, since it’s Inchgower that’s inside of the bottle. If you want to see how Raymonds operation looks like, and how this particular Inchgower was bottled, here is a link to a film made by our one and only Ralfy, certified Malt Maniac. (Just for the fun of it, I have bottle number 14)

Color: Copper Gold.

Nose: Caramel, estery and oaky. Distant liquorice, tar, olive oil and maybe even petroleum. All of this combined with some warm apple sauce and gravy. The nose hints of coming sweetness. It is a great nose, but when you sniff this for some time before tasting it there is something that’s not quite right, sort of unbalanced. You know it smells great, but…

Taste: Tar again, coal, sour oak. Almost as if it were made with steam and luckily it is not the sweet monster I expected. I hate it when a whisky is sugary sweet or simply too sweet. Instant headache. But don’t worry this is nothing like that. The top of the taste is very good. You’ll like it. The middle is oak, in a nice and elegant way. The finish is more the sour part of oak and sort of unbalanced, breaks down and is not very long. The wood is never overpowering or too strong. It’s a very nice example of Inchgower.

The bottle is almost full, but was opened last november (how time flies). I’ve tried small drams since then, and it got absolutely more balanced since the day of opening. Initial score was 85, but it will go higher now.

Points: 88

In fact it tastes more like an 89, but I had to take a point off for the slightly unbalanced finish.