Thursday, July 12, 2012

Linkwood 1975/2002 Rare Malts shows me the way of Spey with roses, honey, and tangerine majesty


Linkwood, in Elgin - Speyside, is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and was a significant producer in the latter half of the 19the century. Since 1971, much (and during certain periods all) of it's output is produced in a modern industrial facility with the same name as the original old distillery (but with the added designation "B"). There is no standard bottling (although for a time there was a Flora & Fauna 12 which was effectively so - but not currently). The gigantic output of Linkwood is sucked into the maw of blends: particularly Johnnie Walker Black Label - as Linkwood is a Diageo shop.

Full gold in the glass
But the old distillery "A" was in full operation until 1985 (when the whole operation was shut down for half a decade). It potentially matters because "A" uses smaller old fashioned wash backs and a cast iron worm coil. The stills have been steam heated since 1962.

That early 60s retro-fit was overseen by one Roderick Mackenzie who oversaw Linkwood until 1963. There's a lovely tale about him:

Roderick Mackenzie, distillery manager at one time, forbade the removal of even spider webs in case the quality of the whisky was adversely affected!.

http://www.scotchwhisky.net/distilleries/linkwood.htm

Linkwood 26 1975/2002 56.1% Rare Malts


This current offering, long gone in full bottles, is still around as 3cl drams from http://whiskysamples.flyingcart.com/ - the sample wing of Belgium's excellent Bonding Dram. The time of distillation dates from back when distillery "A" was in full operation and "B" was a recent innovation.

Color: Full Gold

Nose: honeyed beeswax, rich vanilla cream w/a whiff of sherry, and a glory of bubble gum, white roses, oleander and a hint of orgeat. A paradise of floral and fruity esters. This is one you could gladly nose for hours.

picture credit: http://forum.whisky.ee/
Palate: The entry delivers on the expectations borne of the nose with a sweet and floral effusion with vanilla and roses leading the way with white fruits and a complex filigree of muted oak flavors filling in behind. The mid-palate expansion arrives with a gentle citrus tangerine tang which shimmers and grows spicy as it migrates from mid to hind tongue and the sweet roses and oak incense morph into gentle tannic bite and squeak. At the turn to the finish heat, tang, and sweet fade to a cherry malt glow with gentle spent oak lightly herbal & berry bitterness that acts as a soothing curb to the sweet front. This tastes like older refill cask - but in all the right ways.

The palate is in no way a disappointment here, but the nose is so meltingly, achingly beautiful that I almost cannot bear to actually sip it away or dream of adding any water. This is my first Linkwood. It's a stunner squarely in the Highland/Spey fruit basket flavor profile. What a luscious monster.  This experience really helps me understand the Spey region's special place in the Scotch constellation.

*****

This classic Speyside (and, often, Highland) flavor profile of honeyed intensely floral sweet w/ white fruit notes and citrus is, when the citrus combines, often referred to as "tropical fruits" - or even as "passion fruit" (as I've seen this issue noted).  I get that - but as the roses and honey show up slightly before the tangerine citrus on the palate for me they register as two distinct flavor notes.

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