Linkwood, 26yo 1989 Cadenhead’s Single Cask
(Distilled 1989, bottled Sept 2015, sherry butt, 324 bottles, 50.2%)
It’s summer here in Manchester and frankly my poor northern constitution is struggling with the heat. It’s unnatural is what it is, and not especially conducive to nuanced thoughts about cask strength spirits. However, I have rolled up my sleeves, put a knotted hankie on my bonce, and will attempt to tackle a rather fine sherried Speysider before slumping back into a sweaty torpor.
Nose: You know that smell when you first puncture the skin of an orange? That’s exactly what you get when you pour a glass of this, even before your nose is anywhere near. Get in closer though, and you start to get a bit of sherry cask – dried figs and golden raisins – but quite nicely balanced with a grassy freshness. After a few moments it starts to get richer, with stewed oranges and strawberries (strawberry marshmallow too). Some orange blossom water, and a few hints of spice.
Taste: Loads of oranges. Loads, I tell you! Then rosewater and quince jelly. Strawberry sweets, plus stewed stone fruits. A bit of spice in the form of a clove-studded baked apple with raisins. The strength is bang on – don’t mess around with water.
Finish: A sweet, earthy, chestnutty development as the sherry cask makes itself more obvious. Brown sugar, marzipan and a bit of pomegranate syrup. A little leafy mint and bitter orange cuts through right at the end.
A massive fruity chap, this Linkwood, but well-balanced too. The richer sherry notes are tempered by the underlying grassy freshness of the spirit; the sweet fruit is accompanied by some spice and bitter orange. The end result is still a sweet whisky, but never sugary or cloying, and with a lovely sort of Middle Eastern theme running through it. If you’re reaching for things like rosewater, quince and pomegranate as descriptors then things are generally going well. An excellent cask selection by Cadenhead’s, and an unimpeachable choice for an easy-drinking summer evening dram.