Tuesday, December 18, 2012
I know what would be near the top of my list: Linkwood 15 years, matured and bottled by independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail.
Never heard of Linkwood? That's okay. Linkwood is not exactly a household name. The distillery does not have a 'visitor' building. Matter of fact, it is not open to the public. Why? The answer lies in where we find this malt. You probably have already drank Linkwood and not known it, as it is a favorite malt of master blenders. Think White Horse and the Johnnie Walker product line too. In particular, it turns up in the discontinued Johnnie Walker Green Label. It is a core malt of that pure malt bottling.
The distillery doesn't help raise its profile either by its habit of releasing little, and selling the vast majority of its output to blenders (in the Diageo stable). However, Diageo mercifully permits the sale of some of its 'new make' spirit to independent bottlers.
Gordon & MacPhail take the malt and age it in their warehouses and make decisions about how long to age in various wood casks. The result can be delicious, but generally not well known, because such players in the drinks industry lack the enormous production, marketing and distribution capacity of say a Diageo (who by the way are the owners of the Linkwood distillery). Nevertheless, these smaller players do make gems and Gordon and MacPhail's Linkwood 15 years Speyside Single Malt is a prime example.
Slight and whispy smoke and peat. Subtle floral notes.
Lightly smoked with burnt toast and drizzled wild honey. But that initial taste gracefully yields to bourbon, dark red fruits, raspberries and cherries.
Nice drying lemon zest, strawberry cakebread and the glowing embers of morning smoke of last night's beach bonfire.
Linkwood 15yrs by Gordon and MacPhail represents all that I enjoy in whisky. It is light bodied, delicate, fragrant and very floral and of course complex. This malt leaves you with delicious notes of salt and peppercorns weaved in with the malty and ethereal strawberry.
Do Not Add Water
There is no need for water. This malt is truly best served neat and would make an excellent introduction for the novice to single malt scotch whisky.
If you like Johnnie Walker Green Label, Cragganmore 12, Glenfiddich 15 yrs Solera, Glenkinchie Distiller's Edition, Littlemill and Clynelish 14, I think you will be very pleased with Linkwood 15 years.
Independent bottlers like Gordon and MacPhail make a valuable contribution to the consuming public by bringing to market malts that might not otherwise see the light of day. For example, they currently have bottlings from obscure distilleries like: Aultmore, Balmenach, Caperdonich, Coleburn, Convalmore and many others.
The skill of independent bottlers is their vision to see a modestly aged spirit of a distillery has the potential to become great with the right amount of aging and wood management. Sometimes the reason other distilleries sell their new make spirit to the likes of Gordon and MacPhail is because they consider it somehow inappropriate for use in their mainstream bottlings. Their loss is our gain!
As you know, Green Label is no longer being made. This Linkwood 15yrs tastes enormously similar. I would imagine 1/4 teaspoon of Talisker to a double pour would make it almost identical. Try it!
Happy holidays! Relax, take it easy, enjoy your family and friends. Wishing you the best!