Linkwood. It’s an integral single malt Scotch, yet a lot of Scotch drinkers have either not tried it yet, or are not familiar with it.
I am sort of in one of these camps. It’s a single malt I only became aware of thanks to it being a main component of Johnnie Walker’s Green Label blend. Meaning: if you’ve had the Green Label at least once, you’ve technically had Linkwood, but just not in its single malt form. Despite having known about it all these years, I’ve only tried it once through an independent bottler (IB). I was new to whisky at that time, so I couldn’t figure out what to think of it. Luckily, the local importer of Douglas Laing had some available, so I was able to buy a sample bottle from the Old Particular range.
Linkwood is an integral Scotch because it’s loved by blenders, which means most of it goes into Diageo’s blends, and probably other blends too. That mainly explains why it’s not regularly available and why it’s not too well known – in my part of the world, at least- despite being used a lot.
Most of the Linkwoods I see are single casks bottled by independent bottlers. I think the only regularly available expressions of it would be the Flora and Fauna Linkwood 12. There are also Linkwoods blended and bottled by Gordon & Macphail, but I’m not sure if they’re still available. They did the same for Mortlach but, as it became more popular, the range was discontinued.
Linkwood has a similar production process to other blender’s malts such as Clynelish and Aultmore. Linkwood’s fermentation time lasts for 75 hours, while the other two have a minimum fermentation time of 55 hours. Having a longer-than-usual fermentation time in wooden washbacks gives them more character and flavor. The largest single malt brands usually do around 50 hours max of fermentation in stainless steel washbacks. This results in them having mostly a lighter and cleaner taste. Linkwood’s pot stills use shell and tube condensers.
With that said, we can expect Linkwood’s texture and flavor to be somewhat close to Clynelish or Aultmore. In an era where the demand for single malts has increased, and in a time where people slowly want more flavor, it’s not surprising that blender’s malts such as Mortlach and Clynelish have become more popular, to the point that Diageo have started making Mortlach more readily available.
With a mixed bag of factors, and with blender’s malts increasingly being drunk as single malts, I think we can only expect Linkwood to become more popular. For example, Mortlachs and Clynelish bottled by independent bottlers are now much harder to find. As other similar options dry up, it’s only a matter of time before fans of the same profile flock to Linkwood. The influx of new drinkers and drinkers getting geekier will also accelerate this.
The Linkwood distillery is located on the outskirts of Elgin. It was established in 1821, but only started production in 1824. This is due to the owner, Peter Brown, having wanted to keep his nose clean until the 1823 Excise Act became law.
In 1874, the distillery was completely rebuilt by his son William. They were independent until they joined Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1936. DCL owned them up to 1986. Despite undergoing regular upgrades, the distillery remained operational. In 1972, a distillery was built opposite the old building.
Both buildings ran until 1985 when the original one ceased production. It was used for experiments. This is where Diageo did research regarding copper, reflux and learned more of the effects of worm tubs.
United Distillers acquired them in 1986 and remained so until 1997. This is when Diageo was formed. Until now, Linkwood is still under them. In 2012, the original building was demolished as part of an upgrade. The now new site had six new washbacks and two new stills installed (thanks to scotchwhisky.com for these notes).
Old Particular Linkwood 2007 12 Years Old – Review
48.4% ABV. USD $65 locally.
On the nose: A pleasant mix of floral, grassy and sweet cereal aromas. I get light to medium aromas of toffee, caramel, Frosted Flakes cereal, diluted honeysuckle, honey and lawn grass. At the end are aromas of fresh cut lawn grass and kombucha.
In the mouth: The ABV is a bit more evident here with the presence of a burn. It’s very similar to the nose. I get light to medium tastes of honeysuckle, Frosted Flakes cereal, honey, lawn grass, toffee and caramel. But the honeysuckle here is more intense, rounder and more lasting. The sour aromas don’t transfer here. In-between are subtle tastes of apples, pears, star fruit and hazelnut syrup.
To those who whinge about Malt always giving a 5 or 6, let it be known that we only give higher scores to drams that deserve it… and this is one of them.
This is such a joy to drink. The heat hits you like it’s 43%, but it has all the body and flavor a higher ABV dram brings. There’s the right amount of flavors and complexity here. I’d give this a higher score if only they lasted longer. Maybe if this was aged for a bit longer?
I can see why blenders love this single malt. It has such a pleasant profile. The character this adds to blends and blended malts are for everyone. Let me correct myself by saying this is more like an Aultmore or a Glendullan than a Clynelish. There’s no dirty texture and flavor here.
More of this please? Hopefully more IBs will blend Linkwood for a regular small batch release. I’m sure Diageo will release this regularly some day but knowing them, they’ll make it anemic.
Image courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.