Linkwood 15yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, First Fill & Refill Sherry Casks, Circa 2006)

Gordon & MacPhail release Whiskies in many series. Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, Gordon & McPhail Cask Strength, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive to name but a few. Whisky Geeks call the series like this Linkwood the “Licenced Bottlings”, but I have heard the people of Gordon & MacPhail calling it the “Distillery Labels”, though both names aren’t anywhere to be found on the label. Bottlings in this series consist of Whiskies, where there isn’t (really) an official bottling of, again, like this Linkwood, and to a lesser extent Strathisla and Longmorn, like the 1971 I reviewed not so long ago, of which an official bottling did exist, although not many. If memory serves me correctly, Whiskies in this series were always reduced to 40% ABV and later 43% ABV.

Linkwood 15yo G&MColor: Light copper gold.

Nose: Dusty and funky Sherry. Slightly raisiny. Deep, dark and brooding. Nutty not fruity, so lacking the Sherry cherry of fresh and fruity Whisky. This is all but lively. Its darker and more brooding than I’ve come to expect. Very old calvados. It is apply but in a dense and syrupy kind of way. It’s some kind of hybrid between old Calvados and raisins. It is quite old and unusual smelling and definitely does not smell like a distillate from the early nineties. Hints of charred oak and vanilla powder. Nice, deep and complex. Oily baking paper. Dull brown sugar and some soft wood spices, and sometimes a short whiff of old soap.  More a sort of floral note than a real soapy note.

Taste: Paper and wood, again deep and all but fresh. Old raisins. Dried apples. Red apple skins and definitely from Sherry casks. Quite restrained. This does not shout out its presence, it more sort of sits in the corner quietly. Distant burnt note. Apart from the (burnt) woody (paper) and Sherried traits, this is also has qualities of refined sugar without being very sweet. Does that make sense? Hidden sweetness overpowered by the aroma’s described above? Second half lacks a bit of development and the finish concentrates around the wood and paper notes, with hints of old Sherried Whiskies ending in a medium walnut bitterness and of medium length. It end with the finish, there is no noteworthy aftertaste.

Actually this particular bottling, and beware there are more batches of this, is quite restrained and is unlike many of the Whiskies that are on the market today. This also makes it less likely choice for a daily drinker. Although it is alright at 43% ABV, I wouldn’t have minded some extra 3%, just to carry and strengthen the aroma’s that are presented to us.

Points: 83

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

Linkwood 13yo 1990/2003 (43%, Jack Wiebers Whisky World, Castle Collection, Cask #1922, 120 bottles)

This time we will have a look at a Linkwood from the rather obscure Castle Collection by one of Germany’s finest: Jack Wiebers Whisky World. Not a lot of pictures can be found of any bottle from this series. I still have the Linkwood bottle, but it is rather empty, so not so nice for a picture. Alas no true picture of this particular Linkwood. Most Whiskies for this series were reduced to 43%, although the odd cask strength version does exist. Besides reduction it doesn’t seem to me, that the whole cask was bottled. Usually only around 105 to 120 bottles are bottled per bottling. Yes I did that on purpose. It’s rather hot today.

Castle CollectionColor: Light gold.

Nose: Spicy oak and vanilla. We know already what that means don’t we? Next aroma is quite meaty. Diluted gravy combined with a salty caramel or toffee note, Just like the previous Linkwood this has some sort of herbal smelling wood. This also has a freshness that borders on ozone. Have you ever been in an ozone cleaned pool? Right after that the Whisky becomes more floral and retains its freshness. Creamy, powdery, not spectacular but at least very decent and reliable.

Taste: Light, very light, slightly alcoholic and fatty. Still meaty though and right after that some water diluted licorice. The wood turns slightly acidic and even a bit bitter. A kind of bitterness that is not welcome every time around, if you ask me, especially when combined with a floral note. But hey, that’s Whisky. It’s spirit aged in wood, and sometimes the wood impairs wonderful flavours to the spirit and sometimes not so great. Vanilla and watered down, molten vanilla ice cream and flower-water. Spicy and herbal again. Simple, so not a big body on this one. Short finish too. For me a bit too light and weak, but I’m not convinced it would be better after less reduction, or even at cask strength.

This Linkwood is pretty simple and straightforward and it is sold that way in a reasonably priced series and reduced to 43% ABV, to cut the cost even more. Not great, even with this nice nose, but not bad either. I imagine this to be emptied in one evening over a game of poker. It beats a lot of overpriced NAS bottlings of today though.

Points: 78

Linkwood 21yo 1985/2007 (43%, The Secret Treasures, Bourbon Cask #4548, 348 bottles)

Linkwood 21yo 1985/2007 (43%, The Secret Treasures, Bourbon Cask #4548, 348 bottles)Here we have a Linkwood bottled by a Swiss outfit bottling under the name of The Secret Treasures. Their website is quite amateurish and uninformative. Some basic information is there, but seems a bit outdated. The firm is known for some great rums, like Demarara and Guadeloupe, and apart from Whisky also bottles a Bitter (Els from herbs only found in the Eiffel region), a Gin and some fruit distillates. Their Whiskies are bottled at 43% ABV, a strength that also seems a bit outdated where single cask bottlings are concerned. Bottle looks nice though!

Color: Gold

Nose: Spicy wood, sweet with some vanilla notes. The typical smell of a Whisky coming from a Ex-Bourbon Cask. Some flowery notes by also some candy sweetness. Mocha, tiny hint of mocha coffee. Small hint of cask toast mingled with some dry old spices. Creamy and powdery. I think you get the picture. It smells reduced and easily drinkable.

Taste: Vanilla and oak. Small hint of cannabis, which is not quite unusual for this type of oak. Wax, maybe ear wax. Vanilla ice-cream with some pencil shavings and fresh almonds. Even though this is reduced to 43% it is quite hot and the hotness stays around for a while. The finish itself, tastewise, is much shorter. Hints of fermentation (yeast, cow dung?) and then a bit sour.

Quite sweet and in part too light. Nice sweet body with a hot finish that stays longer than the taste itself. To me this Whisky shows some small faults in distillation. Initially it seems a nice Malt, with a nice smell and so forth, but the taste already shows some unbalance. Nice entry, than heavy on the sweet part, and full body, but a hot and weak finish. Not bad, but should have been better.

Points: 81