Linkwood 1939 Scotch whisky

The Brown family stayed involved with Linkwood until 1897 when it was taken over by the Linkwood-Glenlivet Distillery Co. Ltd. In 1902 Robert Innes Cameron became a board member of the company and over the years his influence grew. Innes Cameron eventually became director of Linkwood and chairman of the Malt Distillers Association.
 
In 1933, one year after Innes Cameron passed away, Linkwood distillery was taken over by Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. (SMD). This marked the beginning of a few relatively uneventful decades until a major refurbishment of the distillery in 1962. The specifications of the 'old' Linkwood distillery remained unchanged.

In 1971 a second distillery with four stills was built
next to the old distillery. The technical specifications
of the new distillery were different (the new distillery
used condensers as opposed to the cast iron worm
tub that was used at the old distillery), so there are
two distinctly different distilleries on the premises;
Linkwood A (the old one) and Linkwood B (new).

Linkwood distillery

Where to find Linkwood

Linkwood Scotch Whisky

Linkwood  (Pronounced: LINK-wood)
Speyside (Lossie)
5739'18.7488 N, 319'58.1268 W
Miltonduff, Glen Moray, Benriach, Longmorn
1825
Active
Sources near Milbuies Loch
3 Wash stills, 3 Spirit stills
3,500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Diageo > UDV (since 1989)
Elgin, Morayshire, IV30 3RD, Scotland, UK
+441343 862000
No
No
Hardly; mostly Flora & Fauna & UD Rare Malts
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

Linkwood location

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The construction of a second distillery next to the old one wasn't unusual for
SMD; they did the same with Clynelish (constructed right next to Brora) and
Glendullan (where another distillery was built under the same name) in 1972.
The twin stills approach was 'en vogue' a few decades ago, but these days
the expansion of production capacity is realised in other ways.
 
The old distillery (Linkwood A) was closed in 1985, but it was reopened again
in 1990 - not to go into full production again though. Linkwood 'A' makes whisky
for just a few months per year. At least, this was the case until fairly recently.
Nowadays 'Linkwood B' may be the only distillery running again with only the
washbacks of 'Linkwood A' being used. With six large washbacks the new
distillery has more of those than the old distillery, which has five smaller ones.
The stills of both distilleries are heated by steam.
 
Linkwood has built a strong reputation with blenders over the years and these
days most of the whisky is used in blends; notably Johnnie Walker and White
Horse. The vast majority of the malt whisky that is produced at Linkwood is still
used for blends and for a long time the only official bottling from the distillery
was a 12yo expression in the 'Flora & Fauna' range.
 
This situation changed in 2008 when Diageo released three different 'finishes';
rum, port and 'sweet red wine'. While the concept of finishes is hardly unusual
these days, these bottlings had some noteworthy features. For one thing, the
age of these releases was 26 years and the double maturation lasted for more
than half that time: 14 years. The size of the bottles was unusual too; just 0.5
litres as opposed to the regular 0.7 litres (for Europe) or 0.75 litres (in the US).

Link wood / Linkwood whisky

Linkwood distillery in the new millennium

2008 - Three different official bottlings of Linkwood are released. The peculiar thing is that all three are 'finished' malt whiskies (a second maturation in casks that previously contained rum, port and 'sweet red wine') and especially that these 'finishes' lasted for 14 years - longer than the initial maturation. The fact that Diageo was able to release these in meaningful quantities gives us an interesting insight in the expectations of the management at the time.
 
2009 - The bottom of one of the spirit stills is replaced.
 
2011 - Production at Linkwood ceased for four months, from March to July, for refurbishment and replacements.
Parts of the wash stills are replaced and a new stainless steel mash tun is installed.
 

This means that Linkwood started legal whisky production not too
long after Glenlivet distillery that claims to be the first legal distillery.
If the historical information is correct, Peter Brown ran Linkwood for
almost fifty years until his death in 1868. His son William inherited
the distillery and demolished it four years later to make room for a
new one. Construction of a brand new Linkwood distillery began
in 1872 and was finished two years later, in 1874.

Linkwood (or rather: the first of the two Linkwood distilleries) was
founded in 1821 by Peter Brown. That means that it was founded
when whisky distillation was still (sort of) illegal. However, it wasn't
until 1825 that production actually started at Linkwood distillery.

Linkwood distillery profileInteractive whisky distillery mapScotland - whisky distillery informationScotch whisky bottlersScotch malt whisky brandsNew distillery projects

Trivia about Linkwood

1) Founder Peter Brown ran the Linkwood distillery for almost half a century, between 1821 and 1868.

2) Robert Innes Cameron (manager and later owner of Linkwood between 1902 and 1932) also owned three other malt whisky distilleries: Benrinnes, Tamdhu and Teaninich.

3) The Linkwood distillery is named after the nearby Burn of Linkwood - which supplies cooling water.

4) Linkwood is one of a few distilleries that has two different still houses - not unlike Balvenie and Macallan.
The second still house was constructed in 1971 and the original still house has not been used since 1996.

5) The Linkwood malt whisky is used in important Diageo blends like Johnnie Walker and White Horse, but a lot of it ends up in the blended whiskies of other whisky blenders and bottlers as well.
 

Linkwood single malt whisky

Linkwood 21yo 1989/2011 (61.7%, Signatory Vintage for LMdW, Sherry Butt, C#3207, 303 Bts.)
Nose: A lovely sherried profile, leaning to the sweet side. Raisins. Turkish delight. Blackberry jam. Prunes?
After a few minutes the occasional whiff of organics. Quite a sting in the nose at cask strength. Tea leaves.
Palate: The sherried profile on the palate matches that of the nose perfectly. Quite dry. Fairly mild tannins.
Score: 89 points - with a little more tannins in the finish (I like those!) it would have reached the 90's.

Linkwood 15yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed bottling, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Concentrated strawberries and animal feed. Lovely complexity and evolution, but light at the same time.
Taste: Fruity and smooth with some organics lurking in the background. Smoke. Great, medium sweet finish.
Score: 88 points - wow, this is a really FANTASTIC batch of this old favourite. It developed an attitude!

Linkwood 1973 (49.7%, TWE Fine Old Malt Whisky, Bourbon cask matured, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Polished and slightly fruity, with a surprising hint of peat in the background. Some sharp spices. Curry?
Mustard? Lovely evolution over time as well, but it remains beautifully balanced. Shortage of personality?
Taste: Perfectly drinkable at almost 50% ABV. Or should I say perfectly chewable? Lots of tannins present.
A fairly smooth start with lots of wood, growing much hotter in the centre. Cools down in the tannic finish.
Score: 89 points - a perfect example of a complex, finely aged malt whisky without any rough edges.

Linkwood 36yo 1973/2010 (50,4%, The Nectar Daily Dram, Belgium)
Nose: Passion fruit. Hmm. LOTS of passion fruit. Perhaps too much, drifting in the perfumy part of the spectrum.
Over time some minty notes emerge. Liquorice all sorts? Still, the perfumy remains a distracting influence for me.
Taste: Very sweet and fruity start, followed by some organics. Plastic? Beer? More pleasant than the nose.
Score: 84 points - which is an average of (initially) an upper 70's nose and an upper 80's palate.

Linkwood 1990/2009 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, Cask #6964)
Nose: Heavy with fruits, chocolate and some coffee. Burnt coffee beans? Hints of spices & something meaty.
Sulphur. A pleasant enough profile, but it somehow feels forced and a little artificial. Too much of a good thing?
After circa thirty minutes the spices have become the most important element in the bouquet.
Taste: Smoky, woody and quite flat - not nearly as good as the nose. Syrupy and quite drinkable, though.
Smoky, bitter finish - a tad too extreme to end up in the upper 80's. They went a little too far with this one?
Score: 82 points - there's a hint of sulphur in the nose, but it's so subtle that I don't mind too much.
In fact, if it wasn't for the 'embargo' on MM Awards scores, I'd increase mine to 83 or 84 points...

Linkwood 19yo 1989/2009 (53.5%, The Clydesdale, cask ref 0034/1841, 209 Bts.)
Nose: Light and fruity; slightly citrussy. Odd fruits. Some subtle organics emerge after a few minutes.
However, the organics can't keep the score in the 80's. Somehow, this seems like a wine finished whisky.
Taste: Very smooth start; quite sweet. Peanuts? Dry, gritty centre. Harsh, bitter finish. Hint of perfume?
Score: 79 points - this doesn't really feel like a malt whisky that's almost twenty years old. A tired cask?

Linkwood 17yo 1990/2008 (48%, Adelphi, C#9734, 204 Bts.)
Nose: Fruity, honeyed and a little flowery. The faintest whiff of oil perhaps? Pleasant, but little more.
Taste: Dry and a little gritty. A faint sweetness in the background. A hint of liquorice in the medium dry finish.
Score: 81 points - this is a sister cask to last year's Linkwood C#9733 from Adelphi, but not quite as impressive.

Linkwood 16yo 1990/2007 (49,3%, Adelphi, C#9733, 269 Bts.)
Nose: Spicy & fruity start, settling down quickly. Gooseberries?
Then sharper alcoholic aromas appear, evolving into greater complexity.
Taste: Starts out on the oily side, then a short herbal episode, then a long sweet centre. Hint of liquorice.
Score: 85 points - this one needed time to reach a recommendation for silver in the Malt Maniacs Awards.

Linkwood 16yo 1990/2007 (58.7%, Single Malts of Scotland, Sherry hogshead, C#5038, 283 Bts.)
Nose: A classic sherried profile. Some vague musty notes in the background. A pinch of sulphur?
Taste: Big, chewy and fruity. Hot start, cool centre. A lovely evolving sweetness. A tad gritty in the finish.
Score: 89 points - but it definitely needs a few drops of water to polish off the rougher edges.

Linkwood 1991/2005 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Sherry Wood)
Nose: Sherry. Polished. Fruity. Spices are next. An upbeat malt. Hint of balsamic vinegar in the background.
More serious with time; organics. Polished. Great development over time; growing complexity. Hint of sulphur?
Taste: Not as cheerful as the nose. Sherry. Little sweetness. Hint of liquorice. Quite dry. Some tannins.
Score: 88 points - but the lovely nose warrants a score well in the 90's. The best of Speyside & Spain.

Linkwood 1989/2004 (43%, The Spirit Safe, 385 Bottles)
Nose: Light and grainy. Vaguely fruity. Prickly in the top of my nose. A bit weak.
It opens up a little after a minute. Much, much more character after a while.
Barley and other 'good grains'. Some light fruity notes as well. Pears and plums.
Over time it showed lots of unique organics, almost lifting it into the upper 80's.
Taste: Fairly weak start followed my a perfumy phase. A fleeting flash of sweetness.
It's not quite sweet enough for my tastes and grows a tad uneven towards the finish.
Score: 83 points - this whisky had some strange personality deficits, but lots of character.
This Linkwood is still not too impressive on the palate, but I can live with that because of the nose.

Linkwood 13yo 1990/2003 (43%, Jack Wiebers Whisky World, Castle Collection, C#1922)
Nose: Light and quite grainy - very similar to the Teaninich 10yo at first. As I suspected, quite boring.
After a minute some very faint spices emerge. Then something oily and 'farty' as well. Rice crackers?
The oily component definitely grows stronger with time, but so do the organics, adding one or two points.
Taste: Malty and quite bitter. Feels a tad syrupy. No obvious flaws, but nothing to sing about either.
Score: 73 points - quite boring like the Teaninich 10yo, but that one has a sunnier disposition.
This Linkwood needs at least fifteen minutes before some sort of personality starts to develop.

Linkwood 12yo 1990/2003 (46%, Hart Bros, Sherry cask)
Nose: Aaaah. Old, dry, good sherry. Amontillado? Leans very much towards 'farmy'.
Complex organics. An absolutely smashing nose - this one really takes no prisoners.
That being said, it seems to run out of steam after fifteen minutes. Something metallic?
Taste: Very sherried. Winey & woody. Tannins. Very extreme - a tad too much so?
Smokier over time. Very dry. No sweetness at all. Not quite as enjoyable as the nose.
Score: 86 points - it's not often that I encounter a malt whisky that's too sherried for me.
I adore the profile of the nose of this Linkwood (especially the 'farmy' twist) but it's a bit too much...

Linkwood 12yo 1989/2002 (59.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, C#5624)
At almost 60%, any bottle I would have tried after this would have suffered from its 'shadow'.
Nose: Very rich and spicy. Mocca? Then more developing organics. Clay? Chalk?
Rotting fruits - something 'fermenty'. Complex, but it seems deceptively simple.
Very interesting and quite complex, but it shows hardly any development over time.
With water it mellowed out a bit. The Mocca and coffee notes were brought forward.
Wait, now it opens up. maggi and oriental spices. This one earns an extra point here.
Taste: Sweet and powerful. Fruity. A great mouth feel, but few lasting impressions.
Adding water didn't improve the palate of this whisky - it turned dry and quite bitter. Too bad.
Score: 86 points - this Linkwood is quite an amazing drams that shows just a few 'flaws'.

Linkwood 11yo 1988/2000 (43%, SigV, Sherry Butt #2786, D. 31/05/1988, B. 06/01/2000, 932 Bottles)
Nose: A big sherry monster. Lovely organics. Toffee? Oh yeah, I love these extreme sherry monsters...
Taste: Phew! Big sherry attack! Smoke? Cool and minty in the centre, dry and woody in the long finish.
Extreme. Quite a contrast with C#2790 (see below) on the palate. That one is arguably better balanced...
Score: 83 points - I adore the XLNT nose but it's not convincing enough on the palate for the upper 80's.

Linkwood 12yo 1988/2000 (43%, SigV, Sherry Butt #2790, D. 31/05/1988, B. 24/10/2000, 912 Bottles)
Nose: Sweetish and a little fruity. Sweet malt and a hint of dust, just like a handful of malted barley. Nice.
It grows a little 'dirtier' over time. I imagine this is easy to drink by the bottle. Not overly complex, though.
Taste: Bittersweet fruity burn. More orangy bitterness later on. Chewy fruits at the end of the long finish.
Score: 78 points - a very decent single malt, and one that grows much more interesting with time.

Linkwood 11yo 1984/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Butt #5458).
Nose: Mellow and slightly grainy. Warm milk with a dash of aniseed? Peaches.
Definitely not from a fresh sherry butt, but it's quite pleasant and accessible.
More and more organics with time - and maybe a hint of smoke? A little bit simple
Taste: Fruity and slightly dusty with a very faint hint of perfume. A little bitter.
It doesn't take very long to grow drier, flatter and smokier. Loses points here.
Score: 79 points - Not terribly complex and the palate of this Linkwood keeps it from the 80's.
 

And there's more to tell about Linkwood...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Linkwood Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Linkwood page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Linkwood expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.) 
 

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