Linkwood, in the Speyside, is one of Diageo’s workhorses. Being included in last year’s collection of overpriced “special releases” hasn’t really raised its profile (in fact, I can’t remember reading any reviews of that bottle). I do remember some of my own reviews, however, and I was not a fan of the last Linkwood I reviewed. That was this 19 yo from 1997 that was part of K&L’s winter 2016 parcel of Signatory exclusives. It was quite a step down from the two previous Linkwoods I’d reviewed (another 19 yo from Chieftain’s and this 16 yo from Signatory). Here’s hoping this much older one (it’s a 30 yo) from 1984 will be much better. I’ve not had very many older Linkwoods, and the only others I’ve had from the 1980s (see this edition of “Quick Hits”) didn’t exactly set my world on fire either.
Well, I guess this has not been the most promising of openings but Malts of Scotland are usually a very reliable bottler. Let’s get right to it.
Linkwood 1984-2014 (52.1%; Malts of Scotland; MoS bourbon hogshead #14045; from a purchased sample)
Nose: A little spirity and grassy at first; a malty core soon develops and then follows the fruit: lemon peel, lemon juice, and some tart apricot. Rather vibrant and fresh for a near-30 yo. The oak makes itself known after a minute or two and then begins to expand—it’s not tannic but it’s spicy and very much there. Must have been a very active cask: it makes the whisky smell “hotter” than 52.1% abv might lead you to expect. This may need time and water to reveal its charms more fully. Yes, with some airing the oak subsides a bit and lets more of the malt through and the fruit too begins to round out: orange instead of lemon and some muskier notes as well. Fruitier and less oaky with water
Palate: A little blank at first but then there’s the oak and malt and a sudden, compact explosion of fruit as I swallow. It’s a little hard to pick the fruit apart: there’s lemon and lime and orange and again a musky quality that’s not quite tropical. Again, it tastes “hotter” than the abv would suggest. With time the oak expands and it gets more gingery here as well. With water it gets spicier and more mentholated at first and then more astringent.
Finish: Medium-long. The wood makes itself known most prominently here. It’s spicy and gingery and just a little bitter; and it’s very much the top note. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is an interesting whisky. The wood is too assertive to my taste, throwing it out of balance. A pity as there was some pleasant fruit and malt action that could otherwise have showed itself more fully. Those with a greater oak tolerance may disagree. Anyway, it was more balanced on the nose with water but the palate was much better without. Oh well, maybe my next Linkwood will be a showstopper.
Rating: 84 points.