Hogshead Reviews: Linkwood 8 & Benrinnes 11

I’m declaring this week Hogshead Week! After already having reviewed the 11-year-old Strathmill, it was high time I started writing about the other six bottles from Hogshead’s inaugural release. I asked Toon (the man behind the brand) himself to advise me on pairings within the line-up, and I will follow his expertise for my tasting notes. Which means I’m kicking off Hogshead Week with the 8-year-old Linkwood, followed by the 11-year-old Benrinnes.

For those of you that missed one of my previous articles on Hogshead; Hogshead is run by Toon, a Dutch whisky afficionado who has come into the industry by storm. He initially started out selling samples, but he soon got an opportunity to become an importer/distributor for several amazing indie brands. Brands that love working with him because they recognise the passion and expertise he puts into his work. Releasing his own indie label is the cherry on the cake, and with Toon’s knowledge you know you’ll get to taste something amazing. Hogshead aims to give you an old-school style of whisky, that for me personally is right up my alley. This is going to be a good week for me ;).

Tasting Notes: Hogshead – Linkwood 8 years old
Stats:

ABV: 48 % (96 proof)

Age: 8 years old

Distillery: Linkwood

Bottled by: Hogshead Indie

Category: Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

A light yet fruity nose approaches me as soon as I get close to the glass. Notes of citrus and malt are playing a game of tug-of-war to see who becomes dominant, but in the end, they keep each other nicely balanced. The citrus notes consist of lemon and orange peel, and the malt provides some cereal and pancake notes to the mix. Behind those initial flavours I also pick up on some vanilla and caramel, but they linger very quietly in the background. Like shy little wallflowers. Water dials down the malty flavours a bit and enhances the citrus notes. And suddenly I’m also detecting some of the honey from the palate on the nose, lovely!

Palate:

As delicate as the nose of this dram was, the palate is a different beast altogether. It’s full bodied and brings a wonderfully thick mouthfeel along with it. Honey, cane sugar, vanilla, and caramel. They all work together to bring a densely layered palate, full of sugary treats. Behind the initial sweetness I’m also finding some fresh fruity notes and a little kick of spice. The spice reminds me of cinnamon candy and the fresh fruity notes bring forth notes of juicy apples. Water further enhances the sweeter notes of this dram, while dialling down the cinnamon candy. Still lovely, but it does take away some complexity.

Finish:

Short but sweet. This one doesn’t stick around as long as I would like it to. Fresh grass, apples and the slightest hint of tannins make for a beautiful finish that brings forth memories of spring. Yet it’s very muted and fades rather fast. It’s always sad when there’s an amazing finish that lasts short, as you want to cherish it as long as possible. But then again, it beats a bad finish that lasts forever every time! Water does make the tannins more pronounced on the finishand it adds some much needed length, but it takes away some complexity here as well.

Verdict:

The drinking strength at which this dram is bottled does not need any adjustment, it comes to you in its best form. This Linkwood has been aged in a refill barrel, and at its relatively young age it lets the distillery character shine through beautifully. And in the case of Linkwood I will always consider that a boon. When you consider the fact that you can get this independent bottled, natural colour, un-chillfiltered, Hogshead Linkwood for only 43 euro… I think you’re getting the deal of a lifetime! It may not have struck the same chord with me as the Strathmill did, but this is yet another amazing whisky from Hogshead.

Rating:

88/100

Value:

A

Tasting Notes: Hogshead – Benrinnes 11 years old
Stats:

ABV: 48 % (96 proof)

Age: 11 years old

Distillery: Benrinnes

Bottled by: Hogshead Indie

Category: Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

The first thing I notice compared to the Linkwood is that despite having the exact same ABV, this dram has a nose that’s a lot more ethanol forward. I am clearly picking up on some ethanol notes, but thankfully it never becomes overwhelming. It just stands out because the rest of the nose is so delicate. I’m also picking up on some slight cotton candy notes and some cooked apples with powdered sugar and cinnamon. And there’s some rum raisins in there as well. All in all, it’s quite the delicious nose, but you do have to really delve in there to get those flavours out. Water ramps up the fruitier elements of the nose, adding a splash of lemon to the cooked apples from before.

Palate:

Just like the Linkwood, the palate brings a lot more oomph than the nose did. There’s salted liquorice, vanilla, and even a little passion fruit that comes into play. Everything is covered in a mixture of molasses and honey, making this another sweet dram. Although the sweetness manifests itself in quite the contrast to the Linkwood. Sadly enough, the rum raisins don’t follow through from the nose (as that’s one of my personal favourite notes). But it does bring a lot of complexity for an 11-year-old. I’m picking up on some white wine notes as well, which -because of the sweetness – I would compare it to a decent (not overly sweet) Moscato d’Asti. And some tannins add another, heavier dimension to this dram as well. Water brings forth a bigger influence of oak, kind of making me feel like I’m sipping this from a wooden cup. Real old school style, I like it!

Finish:

This dram has a medium finish. At first the honey is thick, but as it starts to slowly fade away, I start picking up on the apples from the nose again. Instead of salted liquorice I’m finding liquorice root and there’s an ever so slight black tea note in there as well. This is a finish you can sit back with and just enjoy for a while. Water brings a bit of tannins to the finish that I wasn’t really picking up on before. Tannins can easily become overwhelming, but in this case they don’t, and I find it adds some nuance to the finish that I greatly appreciate.

Verdict:

Opposed to the Linkwood, I like this one better with a tiny splash of water. It really brings the dram alive for me. At roughly 54 euro this is another bottle with amazing value. I was less impressed with it than the Linkwood though, as this one leaves me satisfied but less like I’ve just experienced something unique. This would make a perfect daily drinker, but it’s not a dram you bring out to impress. At least that’s my two cents. That being said, sometimes all you want is a good daily drinker and for the price it’s available at that fits perfectly as well. On that note, I can safely say that this bottle wouldn’t last long around my house.

Rating:

85/100

Value:

B

Roundup:

Getting to enjoy these Hogshead whiskies was an absolute pleasure and I’m very grateful to Toon for providing me with the samples. I can wholeheartedly recommend picking yourself up a bottle, and if you ever visit a whisky festival in the Netherlands be sure to look for the Hogshead Imports stand, as both Toon’s own label and the labels he represents are more than worth your time! I, for one, am already looking forward to Wednesday, when I’ll get to enjoy the next two drams from this inaugural release.

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