Sincere thanks to Raj and Glass Revolution Imports for the sample.
Here we have a case of the very old and the very young. Representing the old, Speyside’s Linkwood distillery traces its history back to 1821, when it was built by a man named Peter Brown. The distillery stayed with the Brown family until the late 1890’s when other investors came on board to create the Linkwood Glenlivet Distillery Company. In 1933, the company was sold to Scottish Malt Distillers, which was shortly after sold to Distillers Company Limited. Distillers Company Ltd. of course went through several business-y permutations over the years and, more or less, is known today as Diageo.
Today’s Linkwood is quite different from ye olde Linkwood of yore. In 1971, a new distillery was built next to the old one. The two plants then became known as Linkwood A and Linkwood B. In 1985, Linkwood A (the old one) was mothballed, firing up sporadically between 1990 and 1996 when it closed for good. Between 2011 and 2013, Linkwood A was finally torn down, with its two stills moved over to Linkwood B. Today, as part of Diageo, Linkwood is a top-20 producer in terms of capacity, with nearly all its output is used in blends. The distillery has long had a reputation of being an excellent blender’s malt, and therefore doesn’t really get out much on its own. Other than a small handful of official releases and the occasional independent bottling, you just don’t see it around a lot, which, given its excellent reputation, seems a shame.
Representing the young part of this review is the new independent bottler named Claxton’s which was founded just a couple of years ago in 2016. Based in the town of Ripon which is north of Leeds, the location of the greatest live rock and roll recording in human history, Claxton’s is a small, family owned bottler that has quickly made a bit of name for itself. Their bottles have only recently reached US shores thanks to Glass Revolution Imports. This Claxton’s 2006 Linkwood 11 Year Old was released in the fall of 2017. It was aged in a ex-bourbon hogshead and has been bottled non-chill filtered with no added color. No added color…hell, this one barely has any color at all. Even at 11 years old, this is a surprisingly pale malt…
The Nose: A fresh, distillate-forward nose. Lots of complex honey, floral and on the lighter side, with lemon curd, Pink Lady apples, and hint of butterscotch. There are nice toasted barley notes here, as well as crisp, green, slightly herbaceous untoasted barley notes. Subtle bready notes as well – think buttered English muffin with drizzled with honey. The oak is mostly subdued, clean damp boards, with vanilla bean and a little allspice. A couple of drops of water plays up the herbal, grassy spirit character, but also amps up some youthful heat.
The Palate: Really nice, viscous mouthfeel. More fruit and sugar notes on the palate; cotton candy, honey crisp apples, orange blossom honey and peach lambic. Candied almonds and pecans, toasted grain, and cocoa nibs lead to more oak and spice than the nose. Slightly tannic, sanded oak with vanilla bean, clove, and allspice. Adding a bit of water brings out more peppery, sharply tannic wood notes.
The Finish: The finish brings it all back together – herbal honey and grain, spiced fruit, lightly grippy wood, and a subtle burnt sugar bitterness.
Thoughts: Deceptively good and intriguingly complex. The pale color and relatively young age had me thinking this would be perhaps an edgy youngster. The nose initially confirmed some of that suspicion with its strongish distillate quality, but it was also very smooth and refined. The palate was a bit more lively and brash, but still had a surprisingly lush richness to it. While there’s a bit of a disconnect between the nose and palate, the finish integrated everything nicely – the herbal grain, floral honey, complex fruit and subtle oak influence. To be honest, this was so easy drinking and enjoyable at strength, I almost forgot to add a little water – it really does not need it. A very nice single cask bottling from a distillery I wish we saw more of on its own. Definitely Recommended.
- “Claxton’s – Single Cask, Single Malt Scotch Whisky.” Claxton’s – Single Cask, Single Malt Scotch Whisky, claxtonsspirits.com/
- “Linkwood 2006, 11 Years Old.” Glass Revolution Imports, www.glassrev.com/linkwood-11-years
- MacLean, Charles. Whiskypedia: a Compendium of Scottish Whisky. Skyhorse Publishing, 2010.
- Ronde, Ingvar. Malt Whisky Yearbook: the Facts, the People, the News, the Stories. MagDig Media, 2015.
- “Whisky Galore – a Spirit on the Rise in Yorkshire.” Yorkshire Post, 18 Sept. 2016, www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/analysis/whisky-galore-a-spirit-on-the-rise-in-yorkshire-1-8131239