Linkwood is one of those well know names that no one seems to harbour too much of an opinion about. It is a malt whisky that floats in the background only to surface occasionally. The reason for this is probably a mix of the fact that it...

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Linkwood is one of those well know names that no one seems to harbour too much of an opinion about. It is a malt whisky that floats in the background only to surface occasionally. The reason for this is probably a mix of the fact that it has been available for decades as a single malt (thanks largely to Gordon & MacPhail) but also that is has had little official promotion or recognition outside the Flora & Fauna series. It is a widely available malt that is occasionally phenomenal and rarely substandard, as a result most people think of it as just another ‘solid' Speyside. This is a fair enough judgment I suppose, after all how can we all have time for Linkwood when there are 1936 Mortlachs to quaff by the flagon? However, it remains a fascinating whisky if you have the time and inclination to delve into its bottled history, there are some stunning examples out there to be found and cherished.

Founded: 1825
Stills: 3 Wash 3 Spirit
Water Source: Milbuies Loch and other nearby sources
Capacity: 2.5 Million Litres
Owners: Diageo

1930s-1971: The Old Distillery

In 1971 there was, confusingly, a second distillery named Linkwood 2 built next door to the existing Linkwood. This was something of a habit for SMD who had done the same thing with Clynelish and with Glendullan. The new distillery was bigger and more modern than the old one and was designed to meet further blending requirements for Linkwood at the time. Bottlings from both distilleries have become harder to distinguish over time die to the fact that both distilleries have been operational together for some years and there doesn't seem to be much differentiation between the casks from each distillery. However, this is not so important because by far and away the best Linkwoods are aged examples from the old distillery.

Gordon & MacPhail owned large stocks of malt whisky from several key Speyside distilleries that were distilled between the mid-1930s and the war years of the 1940s. These were mostly from Glen Grant, Mortlach, Macallan and Strathisla, many of the resultant bottlings are considered, by many whisky lovers, amongst the finest malts ever distilled/bottled. What is interesting is that a large stock of Linkwood was amongst the casks from this era by G&M and many staggering bottlings have been drawn from these stocks. The best bottlings are aged examples bottled between the early seventies and early eighties. They show all the typical old school charcteristics that you would expect/hope for from this pre-war era of distilling. They are resinous, waxy, immensely fruity, peaty and full of menthol, rancio, tobacco and cocoanut complexities. They are also amongst the more affordable of distillates from this era.

There are also some great fifties-era bottlings to be had, the long-aged ones again come from G&M but the best is a 1957 cask strength 12yo for legendary whisky collector Eduardo Giaccone in Italy. It is a full-on, peaty, wax laden, resinous, stunningly mineraled, fruity and phenolic example of truly old-style Scottish whisky.

1971-Present: A Classy Speysider.

Linkwood was modernised at around the same time as the new distillery was constructed in 1971. This brought them very close to each other in style. As a result Linkwoods that originate from this time onwards are very consistent and the two distilleries are fairly indistinguishable. The old one was closed for a few years in 1985 but it continues to produce at a low level even to this day.

The style of Linkwood in recent decades that you are most likely to encounter is one of rich spice, floral notes and accompanying complexities of light fruits, honey, pears, vanilla, cream, stewed fruits and light chocolate notes. These characteristics are magnified with age and can come across with more sweetness, citrus fruit, resinous qualities and, in the best examples, a very nice balance between clean oak and softer garden fruits.

The best bottlings from recent years have been the Rare Malts 1974 30yo, a stunning Moon import 1979 and various great bottlings by Adelphi, G&M and Speciality Drinks. Linkwood is a whisky of great repute with blenders and, to an odd extent, with drinkers alike, as a result, it seems that a constant stream of independent examples is guaranteed for the foreseeable future. Let's hope they can maintain the quality for which it has made its name.

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