The Dark Half.

Taste Review #147 – Linkwood 19 y.o (Darkness – Atom Brands)

As we approach the New Year, memories come back of the years past, of preparing your house for the Hogmanay to come. The lazy Susan would be loaded with peanuts and crisps, the cocktail sticks would be loaded with small pickled onions, cheese, pineapple chunks and perhaps cubed ham. As kids we’d be sent to bed early evening to get ready for being awake late at night. The cans of MacEwans Export and Tennents (with the swimsuited ladies) would be loaded into the fridge and your mum would be frantically baking, so all she would need to do was throw some frozen sausage rolls into the oven when the moment required it.

A festive regular from the 70’s and 80’s (@copmoustache)

The next day usually consisted of a visit to relatives, with the parent the least hungover elected to drive to meet your aunties and uncles, and endure more drinking while you were landed with at best coke and crisps. If you were lucky, the Advocaat and lemonade was shared. Not that it is advisable nowadays to admit that you enjoyed drinking snowballs at New Year parties. Those who know, know.

And such was the Hogmanay process repeated throughout the 1970’s when I was a kid. In a quieter moment, somebody would get maudlin and perhaps come out with something what they think was far reaching and insightful.

Fit’s for ye winna ging past ye.

some twee bollocks.

For those who don’t speak Doric as a native language, that translates to “what is for you, won’t go past you.” It was a favourite of my Scottish Granny to say this, but to be honest I don’t think she had bottles of whisky on her mind when she was saying it. And saying to that to a person who is chasing a bottle that they are unlikely to get isn’t really that helpful, for that person is determined to get it, perhaps at any cost.

By this time the more sensible amongst is should know that whisky chasing isn’t a sport for the mentally healthy. In my view it can quietly be as destructive as many other habits when you consider the anguish of not getting what you want, the obsession in finding it, resulting in you spending a large part of your time online, trawling through retailer websites, obsessively looking at each auction or constantly leaving posts online via whisky social media to find out has anybody got the bottle you desire. Many will find this behaviour pretty disturbing and unhealthy, but I confess that this has been me.

I have a problem.

For those of you who know me or have met me personally, then you may beg to ask “what problem is it this time?” as it could be argued that I exhibit one or two behaviours that may often be classed as, to be succinct, ‘odd’. I personally don’t see anything wrong with having a few eccentricities, which is how I prefer to think of things. I mean, who doesn’t have or need a talking spanner? Let me introduce to you my mate Tommy Threequarters-Inch (to give him his Sunday name). Tommy was introduced to me upon a disastrous project in India this year that was supposed to be only 6 weeks long and became close to 4 times that.

Tommy in India

The initial idea behind Tommy was to feign madness and therefore be removed from the vessel and spend some time at home with loved ones. It’s a risky manoeuvre, as you risked getting painted with the looney brush and never stepping on an offshore vessel again, but seeing as half the people I work with seem mental at times I was prepared to take the risk. And I was off the ship the very next day…


…only due to visa issues, but Tommy was always kept in the back pocket so to speak when things were getting a little too much. Not so much as to get off the boat, but to provide a little light relief amongst the shift. Those who work offshore will understand. It’s not so much madness but just a dark humour. If we didn’t have a laugh, we’d be bashing each other’s heads in. Turns out that actually happened recently.


Tommy rises again. This time in the Congo.

Madness can be described as trying the same thing over and over again, still expecting a different result. While during my career I’ve seen plenty of others do this, on this one occasion when I’ve had the urge to keep on trying to find a Linkwood 19 from the Darkness range, I’ve done my initial searches and given up. I’ve had the odd look online to see if anything similar turns up and did look on a few auction sites, but as I mentioned in my review of the Auchroisk 9 a couple of weeks ago, I knew I’d eventually find something similar. While I think I did with the Auchroisk, it what was to happen next sort of stunned me.

So, let me introduce you to a Scotty’s Drams follower called Billy. A fellow whisky drinker and offshore worker, Billy contacted me to let me know that he had found a Linkwood Darkness bottle I wanted in Germany and could through various means get this to me. This was in March of this year and of course I said that I would be happy to pay what he wanted for it. I did wonder if he’d give change for my first born, but I’d have happily paid in hens teeth – an easier denomination to count out.

Fast-forward to the end of June when both of our schedules met up, and I was able to travel to the east coast of Scotland to pick the bottle up. I could not believe that I had found a holy grail of whisky that I craved. And it didn’t cost me payment in offspring but some good hard cash. Billy and I had a great chat over a coffee, mostly about whisky and collecting. It was great to think that whisky is the thing that can bring likeminded people together. We don’t need to imbibe as much as possible. We don’t need to be drinking the most expensive whisky available. We just need to drink what we enjoy, and know why we are enjoying it.


Linkwood 19 y.o

Region – Speyside Age – 19 y.o Strength – 48.5% Colour – Tawny 1.4 Cask Type – Bourbon / PX Octave finish Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – toffee, coffee, hint of apricots, honey, ginger. Palate – rich toffee, instant coffee, raisins, sultanas, ginger bread and clove. Ginger snaps Finish – Sweet coffee, chocolate, cream, ginger. Medium – long finish.

Conclusions

Was it as good as when I first tasted it in London? No. It wasn’t.

That may come as a surprise, but don’t let me fool you, this was still very very good and I enjoyed it very much. While some people may see £120 for 50cl as expensive (it is), Master Of Malt are selling younger whisky in 50cl bottles for more than this. But it’s the way it makes you feel when you drink it that should be the deciding factor. When I first drunk this dram, it was on a night out and in a place that I was not familiar with, and if being honest, perhaps that coloured my judgement, as I was having a great time. But whilst I still found the same notes that I remembered from before, they weren’t as vivid as I prefer to romanticise about in my mind.

The common sense reaction is to remember that this had been a bar bottle that I first drank a nip from and my bottle hasn’t been open nearly as long. So this one will remain ungassed and we will see how it matures with a little bit of oxidation.

Or perhaps this is just my memory playing tricks on me, or it’s similar to taking statements from accident witnesses: – if you don’t take them quickly, it’s been proven that people often unconsciously embellish their testimony based on what they thought they saw, and other experiences are starting to colour the real version of events. But for me, what it does do is highlight the points I made before in my Auchroisk 9 review, where although I thought these things were very similar, they are in fact quite different if you compare tasting notes. Our memories can’t always be relied on, therefore it is often crazy to chase a bottle, especially the rarer or expensive when something else will give you a similar or cheaper ‘hit’. Only perhaps when we examine in fine detail will we find differences but at that point to be it stops being enjoyable and more of a chore to drink. Just get it down your throat and enjoy responsibly.

To prove a point, I had another dram of each and placed them side by side. While there were slight differences in colour, by tasting alone, I found the differences hard to pick out, yet when looking back at my notes, they are demonstrably not the same. A trick of the mind or memory?

The Auchroisk 9 and Linkwood 19 side by side.

It’s hard to say what it was, but it further reinforces my belief in that it is pointless wasting time, energy and money on chasing a whisky to drink based on what you have tasted before. You are always going to find something that gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling that another whisky has given you in the past. To chase it just because you haven’t had it or need it for your collection is also a form of madness.

But I’ve been there before. More than once as well. Why not join my club? Plenty of room on the helicopter that flies over the Cuckoo’s Nest.


POSTSCRIPT.

It just so happens that despite my advice on chasing bottles has been put to one side. Jealousy got the better of me when I saw that someone on Twitter got 2 Mackmyra Grönt Te, a whisky I reviewed as part of my dabbling in world whiskies. I liked it, but as it had sold out by time I tasted my sample, I knew chasing that was pointless. That didn’t stop me looking.

Anyway, a quick Google found it for sale at CASC in Aberdeen. I ordered two and hoped for the best. These turned up on the 29th of December. One for opening and one for opening at a later date – maybe.

Alls well that ends well.

A lucky second happy ending for 2022.


And thanks to Billy for sourcing the Linkwood bottle. Legend.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

Cocktail Hedgehog – @copmoustache (Twitter)

All Other Photos – Authors Own

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