Here to close out 25+ yo whisky week is a 27 yo Linkwood (see here for Monday’s Ben Nevis and here for yesterday’s Bunnahabhain). Actually, technically this is not a Linkwood as it is yet another of K&L’s teaspooned casks from their late 2020 parcel of exclusives. Which other distillery the small amount out of 27 yo used to teaspoon this cask came from I have no idea. Linkwood itself is an unstoried name and Diageo does so little to promote it as a single malt that it’s a bit surprising they care enough to insist on indie casks of its whisky being teaspooned and sold under another name. Then again, I suppose it may not be Diageo that’s insisting on the teaspooning: some/many of the teaspooned casks in this K&L parcel are not from Diageo distilleries. K&L’s own comments about this are characteristically confusing: as far as I can make out, they’re saying the decision to teaspoon is a decision to offer better value to the customer. But why would their source sell them for less the exact same cask they could have charged K&L more for just because they teaspooned it? Or is it something like avoiding an add-on licensing fee for using the name of the distillery? If so, why does it need to be teaspooned—why can’t it just be given a different name? And why doesn’t the source care that K&L tells everyone in its marketing that this is in fact a Linkwood? If you understand the nuances please let me know.
The Road to Elgin/Linkwood 27, 1993 (53.7%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead 18035; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, malt and an indistinct musky sweetness (a bit of pineapple? a bit of peach?). The sweetness gets more floral as it sits and the oak becomes quite palpable. With more time the oak retreats a fair bit and the sweeter notes and the cereals expand. A few drops of water push the oak back fully, make the fruit muskier (quite a bit of apricot too now) and bring out some sweet pie crust as well.
Palate: Comes in with pretty harsh oak—astringent and acididc and not much else. The texture feels a bit too thin. As it sits the acid resolves into lime and chalk but the oak is still astringent and raw and still prominent. With time and air the oak begins to recede; and it’s more peppery now than astringent. Water pushes the oak back completely here as well and emphasizes the citrus—lemon and candied lemon peel now and not very chalky. Really tastes like a completely different whisky.
Finish: Medium-long. The oak subsides after a bit but there’s nothing very interesting to take its place. As on the palate with time and water.
Comments: This is not very good freshly poured. Time and air improve it some and water a fair bit. I don’t know that it ever becomes a very interesting whisky though, even if it eventually becomes a pleasant drink. Not sorry to have passed on a full bottle of this.
Rating: 84 points. (Pulled up dramatically with water.)
EW! Rating: 105/100 points.
Order of prestige: distillery name; code name (e.g. Blairfindy for Glenfarclas), “secret” malt, teaspooned (at which point it’s a blend and not a single malt). I think this explains the pricing.
I don’t think the source (most likely a broker) would teaspoon the malt but rather the distillery before they sell the casks. There are usually some T&Cs attached to the sale, e.g. cannot use distillery name, cannot be sold to investors…really up to the distillery.
Yes. So it’s almost certainly distilleries disposing of excess casks but “protecting” their brand by teaspooning them first. So you can either pay a premium for named casks, of which there are probably fewer out there now, or you can pay less to purchase a teaspooned cask from a broker/indie. It’s just K&L’s marketing which makes it sound like the choice was between this cask with the Linkwood name on it and a higher price and a cheaper teaspooned version.
On Twitter Jordan just pointed out that the teaspooning was likely done to avoid the 25% tariffs on the importing of single malt Scotch to the US. So it would have been the case that the exact same cask would have cost more if not teaspooned and brought in as a single cask. And so it makes sense that in these cases the casks would have been teaspooned on order after being purchased from the broker/bottler, in this case the Laings.
Does anyone know what the tariff for blended malt is? Curious about the difference.
Interesting comment on the tariffs – thanks. Does this mean the teaspooning was done close to the time of bottling? My understanding is the tariffs are relatively recent..? I presume most teaspooning is done when the casks are laid down.
As an aside, anecdotal reports from friends in the US and websites of European retailers suggest that sending any liquor to the US has becoming increasingly difficult and, when possible, expensive.
I think the idea that the distillery is protecting the brand is questionable (which I assume explains the quotation marks). For some distilleries, the output from the indies is better than that of the distillery (e.g. Laphroaig).