There are instances in any person’s booze exploration that are transitional. I used to be somewhat of a checklister, but I’ve learned to stop and smell the malt. As we examine this incredibly diverse and deep category, there’s a strong propensity to categorize our experiences. This is the X of Y. This is like an older version of that. This bottle reminds me of that bottle. We want to categorize our experiences so we can better explain and understand them. But inherent in the goal of understanding and explaining our experiences we remove ourselves from them. Sometimes we just need to sit back and enjoy.
2006 Craigellachie 12 Year Old “Sovereign” KL Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) $54.99 View
1996 Linkwood 21 Year Old “Signatory” KL Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml) $129.99 View
So if I tell you that this is the best Sherried Speysider under $55 this year – will it be more or less fun if you line it up next to every other sub-$55 sherry bomb you’ve acquired in the last 12 months? There aren’t many so I expect it will be a quick tasting. If I tell you that this is easily the best Linkwood for your dollar in the entire country, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to try it. But I can only confidently say that because I’ve tried every other available Linkwood on the market today. You could spend thousands to do a thorough survey of the marketplace, compare anonymous online reviews and ultimately you’d be very lucky to disprove my postulate. But all that work wouldn’t enhance your experience of these exceptional malts. Indeed, you’ve just wasted all the time you could have spent experiencing with all that thinking.
So stop and enjoy two of the best Speysider Scotches we’ll ever sell you from two exceptional distilleries in two very different styles. Both exemplify what has now become the most important Scottish region and yet each is completely different from the other. A truly befuddling conundrum indeed. Best to have a drink and think about it.
—David Othenin Girard, KL SoCal Spirits Buyer
Every year the biggest struggle we have when selecting casks isn’t necessarily finding ultra-rare casks. If we’re willing to pay for them, the diamonds are there. What’s much more difficult to find are the affordable sherried malts from good distilleries. Last year we smashed things up with an absolutely stellar Aultmore. This year we’ve got a few replacements, one of them being this incredible cask of Craigellachie. While it doesn’t have the inky, nearly bitter extraction that the Aultmore had, there might not be a better sherried whisky available for this price anywhere. Craigellachie is a workhorse whisky, but its stalwart quality is well known to blenders. Sitting on the hill directly across from Macallan, just a short trip over the River Spey, Craigellachie was never sold as a single malt because Dewar’s was too lucrative to spend time selling single malt. There’s no visitor’s center or other fanfare but those who know this special distillery grow to love it. In 2014, the distillery finally released an OB. Long before those well-received bottles appeared on the scene, the malt was well-regarded by Independent Bottlers, especially when aged in sherry casks. The rich malty character and deep waxy fruit are perfectly balanced by the roasted nutty flavors of this sherry butt. No question, this will be up there as one of the best values we’ll have to offer in malts all year, maybe ever. An absolute must-try by any measure. Those who know best are bunkering this bad boy.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: October 31, 2018
I keep wanting to call this the cask of the season, but I only hesitate because there’s SO much more coming down the line I don’t want to overstate just how special this whisky truly is. That said there’s no doubt that this will be one of those incredible values that people will be asking for in the months and maybe years to come. 12 full years in an oloroso sherry butt have turned the majestic malt from Craigellachie into a veritable gem. The nose is full on oloroso with the dry nutty aromatics taking full charge. It’s not the extracted almost bitter bomb that we had from last year’s Aultmore, but it’s no less complex and filled with sherry character. The palate is ultra rich with the bold oloroso character traits locked with the dense malt – the tiniest hint of fresh peat aromatic is a bonus. With a bit of water the whole thing transmutes into one of the most balanced and approachable malts we’ve sold in years. The nuttiness gives way slightly to a complex dried blood orange, cigar box, exotic wood. The palate has tons of sweet malt to balance the sherry and while some may prefer this at full strength with water this is one of the most exciting and drinkable whiskies we’ve ever sold. The total package in every sense of the term and priced to bunker. The first of many legends in the 2018 Whisky Season!
Neal Fischer | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 06, 2018
Oh man, I like this and wish I was sitting in my grandpa’s basement drinking this right now. This toasty Scotch comes at you with scents of old leather, cigar box, tobacco, and just a little creaminess to take the edge off. There are tiny notes of dark caramel and molasses, cardamom, clove, and a lingering smell of buttery cooked cherries. The palate boasts bigger spice, bolder leather, and a phenolic bandaid flavor that I love. Adding water enhances the caramel and brings out a nice saltiness.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 06, 2018
This has daily drinker all over it. It’s a hefty, oily, waxy Scotch with deep sherry notes at a measly 55 bucks for full cask strength juice. The powdery tannins are present, but not overpowering. They showcase the sexy rancio flavors of the finest sherries and bring out the underlying fruity character of the malt. A little water added and this malt explodes into flavors of rolled oats, granola, stone fruit compote, dried figs and cold beer. A perfect pour for every night of the week.
Anthony Russo | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 03, 2018
Its richly dark color is completely natural and due to its delicious 12 years in sherry oak. The near 60% ABV is barely detectable on the nose, which is instead replaced by dried apricot and cooking spices. After a few drops of water, the flavors truly appear and the liveliness of this whisky shows itself. With the new 12 year standard price hanging around $70, it is unique to have something this interesting at this age/cask strength. Great find!
Jeffrey Jones | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 03, 2018
I had expected a rich and juicy sherry aged single malt with no smoke but got a pleasant surprise when I tasted this cask. The nose had the deep dried fruit aromas that I had expected but they were topped off with nice smoke notes. In the mouth it was rich and round with plenty of smoke to balance out the flavor profile. A great value for a high quality single malt.
The exceptional Linkwood distillery is another one of the grand old Diageo malts that you wonder why they haven’t bothered to make a big deal of. Until you dive deeper into how and why the distillery is so important for making them money on the globally viable blended whisky market. After one taste of this Linkwood it’s immediately clear that this is one of the heart malts for the great Johnnie Walker Blends. It kind of reminds me of all the things I love about Johnnie Walker that aren’t peaty. Johnnie Walker, in particularly the Johnnie Green, is actually an incredibly high quality product compared to the majority of blended scotch on the market. The reason even the Black and Red are so well regarded is the addition of very special distilleries like Linkwood, which even in relatively small quantities give those whiskies a distinctive quality that’s hard to replicate. And since the deep complexities of Linkwood are so crucial to improving the character of those blends when inexpensive younger grain whisky is added to soften and stretch the flavors, we very rarely see it available on the open market. In many ways, Linkwood is the classic Speyside malt, but its character is nothing like the names you might associate with the area. The rich character is driven by big malt, herbal and unrelenting, that gives way on the palate to rich textured cereal and sweet grain qualities. A bold complex style that will take most drinkers by surprise. But once you know you’ll never forget.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 07, 2018
Linkwood is one of those distilleries that has a pretty surprising following despite not being at all available in the US. The last official release from this exceptional distillery was a limited release 37 year old, which was sold for $600+ initially. In a lot of ways Linkwood is the quintessential “Scotch” for my palate, a bench mark for Scotchiness that they set pretty high. Here we have it in its most classic form—although in desperate need of a tiny dollop of fresh water, there are few malts more enamoring. After a little squirt of spring water, the powerful dark malt suddenly falls away to reveal a complex web of orchard fruit and citrus peel. Canned pineapple and white nectarines, pointed by a subtle green plum and floral honey. Subtle briochey malt lingers in the background, hinting at the rich, textured, almost sweet entry. More of those tart plums, dark cocoa powder, sweet barley tea and a long white peppery finish. An absolute dream that’s approachable enough for nearly any Scotch drinker to fall in love. Indeed this could be the quintessential Speysider. ADD THAT WATER!
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 07, 2018
Immediately familiar and yet, completely new. This whisky explodes on the palate with a ferocity that I confess, I must tame with a cube or more than a drop of water. As a major Diageo component whisky, you will typically only experience Linkwood cut with soft grain whisky, never in it’s full power. This beast at cask strength is a bomb of chocolate covered fruit mixed with granola in vanilla yogurt. It’s got tang, sweetness, a bit of dank funk, and major muscle. With a generous drop of water, the game changes dramatically. The softer side of Linkwood that feels like home comes out. A complex blend of cooking spices make you feel like you’re baking for the holidays. Jam and honey and fresh winter fruits fill the glass. It’s immediately transformed in to one of the easiest drinking Scotches in the store. Factor in the price of this bottle compared to a OB from the distillery and you’ve got yourself a hell of a deal.
Jeffrey Jones | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 05, 2018
It is always exciting to see something from Linkwood on the shelf because it produces exceptionally good single malts. The nose on this bottling is deep with dried fruit aromas. In the mouth it is full bodied and elegant with layered malt and dry fruit flavors and a nice mouth feel.