Amongst family and friends, geography and my sense of direction are definitely not known as strengths. I don’t always pay enough attention to my surroundings; let’s just say I can get lost in a decent sized restaurant. Earlier in the year, whilst chatting to Jason, he was telling me of an upcoming trip to Sutherland where he was going to visit the Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar, amongst other things. Obviously, I told him to have fun, it will be a nice break etcetera etcetera, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, wasn’t the Dornoch Bar in England?! I asked my partner about it and he gently let me know that I had gotten Sutherland (Scotland) mixed up with Sunderland (England). Oh… I see… silly me!
As a relative new contributor to Malt, I have noticed that my fellow writers often tend to review whiskies from the same distillers, bottlers or geographic areas. Mark is amongst other things the GlenDronach and Bruichladdich guy; Jason, The Thompson Bros guy; Phil, Mr Irish whisky; Taylor, the man for American whiskies (plus the odd mezcal)… you get my drift. When the opportunity arose to try some whiskies from The Thompson Bros, I quickly volunteered; I had to see what the hype was all about. In my last review, I stepped foot into Mark’s area and reviewed a GlenDronach but I’ve yet to make my mark in Phil’s and Taylor’s respective territories… but I will get there, watch this space!
Today, I am stomping all over Jason’s turf and checking out one of his favoured bottlers. I received two samples from the distillery, a Linkwood and a Carsebridge, which I will be reviewing. In addition, Jason himself had already kindly given me a mostly full bottle of The Campbeltown 2014 Blended Malt. I asked specifically for this bottle as I absolutely love the ramen noodle themed label; honestly that was way more important to me than the contents! He has already reviewed it back in July, but in order to give myself a better impression of the brand I decided to throw the blended malt into the mix as well for a re-review. Similar to how I approached my review of Macallan whiskies, this will be Thompson Bros in three parts!
As for prices, the Linkwood has sold out directly, but it might be available from other retailers. The Carsebridge is still available from the Thompson Bros. for £210 and batch 1 of the Campbeltown Blended Malt will cost just £40.
Linkwood 2007 12 year old – review
Colour: almost colourless
On the nose: austere with a big punch of chalky vanilla notes. The sense I get when I smell this is a mineralic feeling, imagine wet rocks and walking along a pebble beach with the grit drying on your boots. A definite smell of newmake spirit with hints of banana and artificial apples; full of estery sweetness. White pepper is there with a sour lactic note that reminds me of a yeasty fustiness and a sweet sickly scent. As it oxidises there are hints of oats dusted with icing sugar.
In the mouth: this is quite sweet with lots of icing sugar and vanilla. The mouthfeel is fairly thin and the dryness is prominent. Sour apple that immediately turns bitter and tannic with tea leaf flavours, and then begins to move back towards sourness again. Spice and bitterness from chilli peppers and white pepper play about the mouth. Lemon and ripe lime rinds begin to come out as the bitterness and dryness fade. The finish is toasted tea leaves with a tannic feel on the tongue and a warming pepper burn on the throat. It is fairly drying but doesn’t seem to last too long.
Carsebridge 1973 46 year old – review
Colour: burnt orange
On the nose: this is so full of flavour, it emits waves of very sweet and rich dense deliciousness. Caramels, toffee and home-made vanilla extract (vanilla pods soaked in vodka) give way to a more creamy aroma from coconuts, whipped cream and buttery toffee popcorn. Christmas cake flavours are present in the form of well-seasoned fruit sponge covered in fondant icing with the dry spices lingering; ginger, cinnamon and mixed ground pepper. It is quite resinous with wood polish scents and natural beeswax. Darker flavours like fudgey medjool dates and mocha latte with a wafting of strong espresso. There are some red fruit hints not unlike dried raspberries and strawberries with a teeny sour tang and also some peaches in the background.
In the mouth: this is sweet and warming. I get the sensation of eating peaches and cream yoghurt that gives way to coconutty, vanilla and milk chocolate flavours. The warmth is from white pepper, black pepper, ginger powder and hot chillies. Tannic in the form of cloves, black tea with a lump of sugar and red berry tea. Both rich and dense with hints of frangipane, fig pudding and fudgy dates giving the whisky an oily and chewy mouthfeel. The finish medium with a fiery spicy burn that lingers on the mouth and throat. There is a sweet syrupy sensation as the whisky goes down and, due to the tannins, it leaves a slightly bitter sweet end.
Campbeltown 2014 Blended Malt – review
Colour: ramen yellow
On the nose: sweet with a delicate vanilla almost like a lightly fired crème brulee. Honey and caramels are present before the alcohol takes a more prominent place. Fruitiness from apples, freshly pressed grapes and guava juice make their appearance. There are lighter watery fruits similar to honeydew melons and unsweet strawberries, but only a hint. Nuttiness similar to untoasted pine nuts or waxy cashews give a pleasant creamy aroma. As it oxidises, a floral scent becomes more noticeable; it is sappy and almost like fabric conditioner. Funnily enough I get the smell of a hot iron as it heats up before the task of tackling shirts, trousers and the likes. Maybe a dram of this would make the experience more enjoyable!
In the mouth: sweetness not unlike an icing sugar glaze. A hint of coconut but the creaminess carries it around the mouth so that you know it is definitely there. The mouthfeel is both oily and waxy but begins to dry leaving a thin film that remains on the sides of the tongue. Think of eating a giant white chocolate button, as the chocolate dries your mouth, the fatty oils carry that sweetness around. Bitter and tannic like drinking a well brewed black tea with a sugar lump or two. I get madeira sponge, sticky dense vanilla and juicy grapes. Hot spiciness from both white and black pepper and fresh chilli peppers also dance about on the palate adding to the bitterness as well. The finish is medium to long as the hot burny chilli spice remains on the base of the throat but the mouth dries with a peppering of icing sugar and stale black peppercorns. The floral notes are not unlike breathing in perfume hanging in the air as you walk by.
The blended malt was surprisingly chewy and I really enjoyed it, however, for my tastes it is quite a sweet whisky. This would be fantastic on a really cold day sat in front of a roaring fire, I would need to revisit it in hotter months to see if it is just as pleasant. I need to mention the label again before I get onto the other whiskies because it is so attractive to me. I love ramen noodles (a LOT) and when I saw the design, I was salivating just looking at it. Kudos Thompson Bros, that’s one way to make people hungry for your whisky!
As for the Carsebridge, this would be the oldest whisky I have ever tasted. Again, a very sweet whisky but I enjoyed the rich fudgy flavours, it was seriously tasty stuff. This is another one for a winter’s night because it would definitely keep you cosy. From having never heard of Linkwood, in the past 6 months I have had the pleasure of being able to try a few from different independent bottlers at tasting events I have attended. They haven’t always been the best but there is always something that stands out to me with whiskies from this distillery. This one was funky… for sure! I enjoyed the taste and the finish but the nose was odd. The sickly smell was at times kinda baby puke-like and I am unsure about that, as you might imagine. I have enjoyed visiting these whiskies from the Thompson Bros, they are definitely doing something that is getting them noticed. Cool label designs, tasty whiskies and funky tasting ones. I look forward to whatever else they bring out in future.
Photographs of the Linkwood and Carsebridge their respective samples kindly provided by the Thompson Bros.