Goldfinch Whisky – Paloma (Ardmore and Linkwood)

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Goldfinch Whisky

I must confess I didn’t know too much about Goldfinch Whisky before writing this review. As it turns out, it is an independent bottler of Scotch whiskies, established by Andrew Macdonald-Bennett, an entrepreneur who previously worked with Edrington, developing The Macallan’s online shop and supporting the launch of Highland Park’s Viking Soul.

Macdonald-Bennett chose the name of the European Goldfinch as it spends its summers in Scotland, lining its nest with the down of thistles before flying off to Spain for the winter, where it spends its time around the country’s famous bodegas. The bird therefore becomes a symbolic representation of the close relationship between Scotch whisky and the sherry casks of Spain.

Goldfinch sources casks from distilleries all over Scotland and bottles it under a series of different labels. The Paloma range is so named because each bottle features the image of a painting by Catalan artist, Isidre Nonell, entitled “La Paloma”. The Paloma series celebrates the effect that different types of sherries can have on single malt whiskies.

La Paloma by Isidre Nonnell

Andrew Macdonald-Bennett, said: “We created Paloma to tell a different story and reveal the influence that Pola Cortado sherry can have on a variety of single malt whiskies. We chose casks previously containing one of the rarest sherry varieties in the world to finish our first releases. By focusing on the Spanish connection where sherry is produced, we have created something that looks beautiful and timeless, which tastes incredible.”

*Full disclosure: The whiskies featured in this article were sent to me free of charge. As always, I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the drams and the value for money they represent.

Linkwood 14-year-old (Palo Cortado Finish)

Linkwood is a Speyside distillery established in 1821. Today it spends most of its time producing whisky for use in Diageo’s blended Scotch expressions. Single malts are rare, though independent bottlings tend to showcase a whisky of excellent quality.

This single malt was aged for a total of 14 years, including an undisclosed period of finishing in a Palo Cortado sherry cask. It’s bottled at 53.5% and retails at £88.

Smell: Golden syrup. Heather honey. Orange. Caramel. Brown sugar. Raisins. Toffee apples. Old oak. Wee bit of pepper. There’s a dirtiness to it that I really like. It doesn’t feel overly polished. Fragrant spices. Jasmine and nutmeg. Walnut. Leather.

Taste: Big arrival. Dried fruits and big oaky tannins. Dark currants and sultanas. Black pepper. Citrus oak. Dried figs. Raisins. Walnut. Dark chocolate.

Thoughts: The sherry and oak dominate, especially at first. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s older than its 14 years. With water the nose developed a slight char note, almost sulphury – like struck matches. Still incredibly fragrant. Like walking into some exotic apothecary. That little bit of dilution also made it silkier on the palate. A whisky of very good quality with a sherry character that feels properly integrated – not just some superficial overcoat.

Price: £88 isn’t cheap but such is the current market, unfortunately. At least 14 is a decent age statement and it’s bottled in such a small quantity that you know you’re getting something rare. The unusual cask finish adds to the appeal as well – there aren’t too many Palo Cortado-finished Linkwoods around. Most importantly of all, it’s very pleasant and interesting to sip on. Not for everyone at the price but at least those that splash out won’t be disappointed in the quality.

Ardmore 13-year-old Palo Cortado Finish

Ardmore distillery stands in Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire. It was established in 1898 by Adam Teacher, son of William Teacher of Teacher’s Blended Scotch. For much of its life the distillery has produced spirit for use in blends but largely through independent bottlers, it has earned something of a reputation as a fine single malt in its own right.

This whisky was aged for a total of 13 years, including a finish in a Palo Cortado cask. There are just 340 bottles at a strength of 54.2%. Retails for £90.

Smell: Rich, spicy and smoky. You can smell the peated malt. In fact the nose reminds me of being in a distillery. The smell of malting floors and kilns and cooking mashtuns. But there’s also the aroma of dunnage warehouse and damp earth. Once again, this isn’t a modern clean sherry finish. It’s old-fashioned and well integrated. Musty oak. Bonfires and ash. Also bacon with maple syrup.

Taste: Smoky and salty. Rich and nutty. Dried fruits like raisins and sultanas. Also orange. Blackcurrant. There’s a real oakiness to it – like you get when there’s lots of cask sediment floating in your dram. Damp ash and wood smoke. Honey. Malt.

Thoughts: It isn’t as outwardly smoky as some Ardmores but the peated character is definitely there and actually mingles very well with the sherry. The sherry adds similar notes as it did with the previous dram but the final effect is quite different because the smoke adds a whole new layer. That musty, smoky character could be quite divisive and this dram definitely won’t be for everyone but some will absolutely love it. I certainly enjoyed it.

Price: Once again we’re in quite expensive territory here but it’s unusual and of high enough quality to justify its price.

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