Linkwood is one of those Speyside distilleries that enjoys a strong support from enthusiasts but mainly focuses on producing for blends. However, ask many who enjoy a whisky, which distillery they seek out for that classic approachable Speyside character and a high proportion of responses will be Linkwood. This speaks volumes of the quality of the whisky being produced at the distillery that has been around for longer than most, being founded originally in 1821 by Peter Brown.
The date you’ll see quoted in many places is 1825 but this is when the distillery finally started production. It’s a symbolic date as this is shortly after the Excise Act of 1823 passed into law and prompted the legislation or establishment of several of Speyside’s most iconic and enduring distilleries. Linkwood sadly tends to be overlooked; a trend that continues to this day. In 1835 the distillery was recorded as producing around 20,000 gallons annually via the 2 stills on site, namely an 800 gallon wash still and a much smaller 170-gallon spirit still. The distillery unlike many others actually had a peaceful existence, with its founder Peter Brown manning the helm for 47 years until his death in 1868. Stepping into the fold was Peter’s son, William, who had big plans for the distillery. This started with its demolition in 1872 and its replacement coming online in 1874. A new company was formed in 1897, as the Linkwood-Glenlivet Company Limited, and this endures until 1932 when the firm is finally acquired by Scottish Malt Distillers. This heralds the pathway to its current ownership in the form of Diageo via mergers and acquisitions over the coming decades.
More extensive work is undertaken in 1962 with Linkwood being rebuilt once again, before further work in 1971 when the number of stills is increased dramatically from a single pair to the trio we see today. This new arrangement of stills now accounts for an annual capacity of 5.6 million litres which is a far cry from its humble beginnings. Interestingly the original 2 stills are referred to as Linkwood A, whilst the new additions are known as Linkwood B. In reality, they are run separately with the closure of Linkwood A in 1985, as companies are forced to cut back on whisky production across the industry, including the closure of many sites. The main difference is that the B facility uses the more modern approach of condensers, whilst the A stills retained the traditional worm tub method of cooling the spirit. For Linkwood its B facility continues unabated and in 1990 is re-joined once again by the original duo until at least 1996, when they shut down production once more. In 2013 Linkwood B (this can become confusing) is extended to feature the 6 stills we see today.
Linkwood today remains prized by blenders and much of its output is destined for popular blends with the Jonnie Walker range in particular as well as White Horse. Thankfully it’s not all destined for blends as the distillery is included amongst the Flora & Fauna range that debuted in the 1990’s and can still be purchased for under £50. This for a while was the only official Linkwood until 2002 when a 26-year-old was released as part of the Rare Malts range. This was followed a couple of years later by a 1974 30-year-old Rare Malt and then a trio of wood finishes in 2008. Then an impressive 37-year-old arrived in 2016 as part of the Diageo Annual Special Releases programme and this whisky distilled in 1978 is still widely available.
However, if you truly want to appreciate the Linkwood character then it’s the independent bottlers that provide more affordability and choice. At times, it seems almost every independent company has bottled a Linkwood resulting in a variety of age statements, casks and pricing. It’s a rich field of discovery with the approachable characteristics of floral notes, nuts and fresh fruit proving so appealing. If there is a Linkwood below then it’s worth snapping up!