Tragedy Struck! Gordon + MacPhail’s Linkwood 1998 46%

Once upon a time there was a Linkwood that was poured into a bottle in 2012… to make its way from Scotland to a World of Whisky store to a home in Mumbai, India. And then find its way into our glasses in October 2018…

We sampled it blind and here is what we found…

Linkwood 13 year (8 Dec1998 / Jan 2010) Cask No 5014 Refill Sherry Hogshead 46% for World of Whiskies

  • Colour – Very yellow
  • Nose – When first opened it was so fruity – particularly jackfruit, cashew fruit then red fruits… then as strong as it came on, the basket of fruits slipped away… Particularly after the first sip. Instead there was biscuits, cereal notes with hay, grass… more and more it became dusty, musty, woody… after even more time there was a light coconut and even some marshmallow but… something wasn’t quite right….
  • Palate – Sharp, initially fruity, then musty, sour, earthy, bitter, very woody, some spice, quite thin with little body, wet fallen leaves
  • Finish – Very short finish
  • Water – Some found it horrible, bitter vs others finding it became tart with lemons then sweet, the fruit came back with some spice yet was still very musty with dry coconut husks

We struggled with this one… it seemed oddly incomplete or off… something or other wasn’t quite right. Over and over we kept remarking on the peculiar musty element.

With the reveal we were all surprised.

Linkwood.

Gordon & Macphail.

Really?? The character wasn’t in keeping with our past experience with Linkwood whiskies and certainly not Gordon & Macphail bottles.

And that is when our host revealed that the reason he served this single malt from a lovely decanter was the cork had crumbled completely. He further shared he had purchased this years ago – likely not long after it was released in 2012.

It seemed that tragedy had struck. What could have once been a fine dram was given no favours by being stored in a Mumbai cupboard for years. There actually have been studies on the impact of storage conditions on whisky bottles. Mumbai’s heat isn’t kind to bottles… and this seems to have happened in this case. Sigh….

What about other Linkwood experiences?

Our original tasting group continued in our “classic” evening with two other Scottish single malts:

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Scottish Trio – Linkwood, Old Pulteney, Royal Brackla

Sometimes you just want to enjoy classic styled whiskies… with a flight that has a straight forward age progression from younger to older… no experimentation, just a standard combination of ex-bourbon cask and ex-sherry maturation.

That is exactly what we did this month, sampling each malt blind… And yet it wasn’t entirely as “traditional” an experience as one would think…

Our original tasting group went “traditional” with a Scottish trio:

Curious to know more about what we found? Just click on the whisky links above and get all the juicy details!

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Whisky Live 2017 – Signatory’s Linkwood 8 year and Cambus 24 year

The last in the Whisky Live 2017 sniff, swish and move on was a stop by the Signatory booth. While they had a range of offerings, two caught my eye…

Cambus 24 year (1991/2015) Cask No 55891, Bottle No 431/447 51.9%

  • Nose – Subtle, nuanced, floral with a light perfume, citrus, salted caramel
  • Palate – Simply delicious, nothing harsh, a lovely softness, perfectly executed, honey, vanilla
  • Finish – Herbal spice

Cambus is a discontinued distillery from the Lowlands… one I hadn’t before encountered but would be keen to try more…

Linkwood “Very Cloudy” 8 year (14 May 2008/15 Jun 2016) Bourbon Cask No 800029 – 8000031 40%

  • Nose – Don’t laugh but this had a fruity bubblegum aroma, then light oak, honey
  • Palate – Some spice, ginger bread
  • Finish – Woody, spice

While fleeting impressions, particularly the Cambus stood out… yet both where worthy drams.

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Whisky Live 2017 – Gordon + MacPhail’s Balmenach, Linkwood, Ardmore

Gordon & MacPhail never disappoints. And while it would have been nice to have someone from the team at WhiskyLive Singapore like in 2016, their whiskies spoke loud and clear. While just a sniff, swish and move on, it was still terrific to have a quick insight into a trio of lovely drams.

Balmenach (2008/2016) 46%

  • Nose – Grassy, perfumes, crisp apples
  • Palate – Straight forward, spice, fruity, simple yet quality.
  • Finish – Really nice spice finish

Linkwood 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Sherry, floral and fruity
  • Palate – Creamy, well rounded, smooth, accessible. Very smooth… a nice “lazy” dram
  • Finish – Such a delightful happy finish

Ardmore 1997 45% 

  • Nose – Vegetal, leafy tea, light pepper and smoke
  • Palate – Forest, sweet, while not complicated, has a nice easy drinkable quality.
  • Finish – Easy dram

A nice diversion… and a reminder Gordon & MacPhail delivers.

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On a Linkwood roll…. Whisky Live’s Linkwood 25 year 40%

Next up from the special Collector’s Room at Whisky Live Singapore 2016 was a whisky selected so that my sampling companion could try an older Linkwood from Gordon & MacPhail.

I was quite impressed with the Linkwood 25 year from Gordon & MacPhail and less so by a Linkwood 24 year from Signatory.

2016-11-12-linkwood

Alas, the La Maison du Whisky ‘Rarities Tasting Book Edition 2016’ did not feature this Linkwood and my separate scribbles went missing with all my subsequent travels.

Given the black and white label and the strength of only 40%, my guess is this may be from the 1980s. However that is pure speculation on my part.

So rather than tasting notes, details on the rare whisky imbibed, this is merely a testament to my chronicling follies. All that remains is a photograph and fuzzy recollection that this Linkwood did not disappoint.

2016-11-12-collectors-quartetOther whiskies sampled in the Collector’s Room included:

PS This whisky came compliments of my Whisky Live Singapore traveling companion – you know who you are and you know how much I appreciated experiencing these discoveries together!

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Whisky Live Singapore – Collectors Room

Whisky Live Singapore has a special ‘Collector’s Room’ where the unique, rare and exclusive whiskies reside.

2016-11-12-whisky-collectors-room

Which ones did we chose?

Then had a bonus Bruichladdich 10 year 58%.

2016-11-12-collectors-quartet

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Linkwood 24 year (1991/2015) 53.8%

Our quest for great cask strength whiskies around 100 pounds began with a Linkwood…

Interestingly, our last session also featured a Linkwood – a rather delightful 25 year old from Gordon & Macphail. So hopes were high!

linkwood-24

Linkwood 24 year (16.061991/04.08.2015) 53.8%

Cask No 586497, 268 Bottles, Hogshead  (TWE The Single Malts of Scotland)

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Quite summery, grass, vanilla, flowers, sweet, light, hay, light toast. As it opened further a little spice, honey, sweet tree sap. Post our initial sips, took on more wormwood, resin and the sweetness subsided
  • Palate – Great kick, a blaze of unexpected spice, big mouthful
  • Finish – An elongated burn
  • Water – With a few drops, spice and more burn… added more and started to open up

In short, this one needed water. A very generous dollop not a mere drop or two… bringing closer to 46% seemed a more balanced level.

I couldn’t help but wish we had the the Gordon & Macphail 25 year bottling to compare. At 43%, that Linkwood was truly superb. Fabulous value for a quite lovely whisky.

Whereas this one, at cask strength, had terrific promise on the nose but no follow through on the palate. It wasn’t that the whisky was ‘wrong’ it simply wasn’t really ‘right’ either.

We gave it even more time and returned after sampling the other whiskies… once again a lovely aroma yet just didn’t deliver on the taste. One even remarked this was a ‘heartburn’ whisky?!

Our quest was clearly off to a shaky start…

What else did we sample in our trio?

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Cask strength quality? Linkwood 24, Longmorn 24 and Balmenach 26

Thanks to mad travel schedules, the Bombay Malt & Cigar club held our session early November… this time on a quest for cask strength quality below 100 pounds. All were from the prodigious Speyside region yet none were distillery bottles – two were from The Whisky Exchange with their Single Malts of Scotland series and the last from Signatory.

linkwood-balmenach-longmorn

Here are the bottles sampled in our quest:

As for whether we were successful in our quest? Jut click the links above to read about our experience…

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Whisky Ladies like variety! Akashi, Spirit of Hven + Linkwood

Variety is the spice of life! And why not with whiskies too?

This Whisky Ladies session with a few ladies gallivanting around the globe, those remaining in Mumbai decided to merrily abandon the idea of a co-ordinated theme.

Instead we decided to mix up whiskies from three different countries and styles.

Whisky Ladies, Sept 2016

Whisky Ladies, Sept 2016

The Linkwood was a gift from our Bombay Malt & Cigar session, so I had sampled it earlier, however for everyone else joining, it was a 1st for them! Pronounced a rather lovely drinking dram, it kicked off our evening’s tasting session.

The Akashi is one of the few whiskies blended in Japan available at Mumbai duty free. The Akashi is an example of a ‘ji-whisky’ and has an apple cider quality. It works well as a ‘starter’ whisky for those who like something simple, smooth and unchallenging… and was meant to be our ‘appetizer’ except our poor Whisky Lady got stuck in nearly 2 hours of traffic to reach! (that’s dedication!)

The Spirit of Hven was acquired by a new whisky lady on her recent trip to Sweden. Much bolder with fabulous packaging, the Tycho’s Star swaggered into our senses and was much enjoyed. The irony was our Swedish whisky lady happened to be… well… in Sweden so missed the session however this was clearly one she would enjoy!

PS With desert, we decided to share a few drops of the Blair Athol 27 year with it full cask sherry burst – yum!

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Affordable Adults – Linkwood 25 year 43%

Next in our ‘no brainers’ set of affordable adult whiskies was a Linkwood. I will admit I still regret passing up a Gordon + MacPhail Linkwood at Heathrow Airport last year, however admittedly it did NOT qualify as affordable at the time.

Linkwood is another Diageo distillery that is better known as an element in blends like Johnnie Walker and White Horse than as a single malt. However for some time it has found its way to whisky aficionados through independent bottlers, then Diageo’s Flora and Fauna series, followed by official bottlings in 2008.

What did we find with this particular 25 year old Linkwood?  After the rather disastrous introduction to the Benrinnes… anything would have an improvement! Thankfully this Linkwood was a beauty…

Linkwood 25 year

Linkwood 25 year 43% (G&MP)

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Lovely stewed fruits, apple brandy like Calvados, figs, citrus, little nutmeg, hint of smoke with some toast and wood
  • Palate – Soooo silky smooth, beautiful with just a hint of peat to keep things interesting, more apples with a touch of light pepper, sweet, smokey yet light
  • Finish – Long and smooth
  • Water – None were tempted… it was perfect as is

Overall it was such a welcome change from the Benrinnes – light, bright with just the right touch of peat. While clearly sherry, this element was not overpowering, instead we found a subtle balance between the different elements – neither too much sherry, nor too much peat and so dangerously delicious and easy to drink!

As I babbled on about how Gordon & MacPhail (G&MP) has yet to let me down… I was teased for my ‘whisky crush’ on these independent bottlers.

Bottom line – I have yet to ‘meet’ a whisky from G&MP where I felt ‘cheated’ or ‘let down’ by the experience. Sure I don’t expect a $10,000 whisky for a $100 price, however their different ranges can meet most avid whisky fan’s requirements.

I’ve reached the stage where can blindly say when someone asks for a recommendation “Look for something bottled by Gordon & MacPhail… see if the style described fits what you like and just buy it!”

Case in point, this 25 year old stunner retails for only $110. That is exceedingly good value for quality in my books.

Here’s what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say:

Without water:

  • Aroma – Burst of freshness – hay like notes, with a defined hint of well Linkwood 25 year G+MPtoasted malt. Some candied fruits emerge and a subtle Sherry influence lingers. Herbal with a touch of Rosemary.
  • Taste – Mouth watering with a sweet and creamy edge. Some delicate hints of bonfire embers develop. Vanilla emerges and a hint of peppery warmth comes to the fore.

With water:

  • Aroma – Toasted malt, with a Sherried sweetness. Hints of citrus notes (lemon zest) linger and a defined vanilla edge becomes apparent.
  • Taste – Initially sweet and warming with hints of mixed spices and a defined dark chocolate nose. A subtle touch of peat smoke lingers in the background.
Thanks Duncan at The Whisky Exchange for the recommendation!
Others in our ‘Affordable Adults‘ evening included:

PS Our Whisky Ladies had an opportunity to sample this courtesy of our BMC contributor… their impression was largely consistent with the gents… described as romping through the meadows (on the nose), a bit sharp then earthy moss, charred wood (on the palate), a little spice and nutmeg in the finish. The overall impression? We liked!!

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