Clynelish 15, 1997 (Exclusive Malts)

emclynelishThis is a bottle I brought back from Los Angeles this week. It was bottled by David Stirk (of the Creative Whisky Co.) in his Exclusive Malts line. I know David just a little bit from a whisky forum we are both members of. He is enthusiastic and likable–which I’m sure disposes me favourably towards his bottlings. This Clynelish is one of nine of his bottlings that represent his entree to the American market. Hitherto, his bottlings have been available largely in the UK and the EU (though I believe he *may* be in the Japanese market as well) and there they are largely in the “good value” band of the pricing spectrum. Of course, with the three-tier system in the US (with importers, distributors and retailers all adding a healthy markup) that’s not quite as true here, at least not with this first consignment.

As per David, this first lot of whiskies are being released only in California; and this Clynelish is retailing a little above $100. I got my bottle from Silver Lake Wine. David is apparently going to be running tastings of his whiskies at a number of LA stores in the coming weeks, including one at Silver Lake Wine, I believe, so if you’re in the LA area you might want to check him out. K&L is also carrying some of this initial consignment but not this Clynelish (presumably because they have their own exclusive cask of Clynelish of similar age and vintage from A.D. Rattray that this would compete with; if you have a bottle of that one and might be interested in swapping a sample from this one, let me know via the “Contact” page above).

On to the whisky.

Clynelish 15, 1997 (Exclusive Malts, 53.5%, cask 6894; from my own bottle)

Nose: Closed and hard to read at first. After a little airing a musky sweetness begins to develop and expand. Apples, or apple cider more like; then a hint of brown sugar and a savoury note, almost reminiscent of ham; gets brinier as it sits and slightly resinous notes also emerge. With time, a leathery, slightly musty note emerges. A touch of water brings out the trademark Clynelish waxiness and mellows the brininess. Maybe I’m imagining it, but after a bit I seem to get hints of a malty, biscuity note.

Palate: Hotter at first than the 53.5% abv would suggest. Peppery and bittersweet. Again, not terribly expressive at first. Apple peels? Nice texture. Somewhat austere. Let’s see what water does. Gets spicier with water–more of an acidic bite and more salt as well. A little fruitier too–apples and pears mostly. A faint hint of smoke.

Finish: Medium-long. Not as briny as most Clynelish I’ve had tends to be; indeed at the very end there’s a bright sweetness that lingers around the edges of my mouth (almost like the after taste of simple syrup). Oh wait, as I keep sipping the salt begins to make an appearance. Water makes the finish quite salty.

Comments: As with a lot of Clynelish I’ve had this is not a big, robust whisky. However, it is not terribly austere either. Time and attention reward both the nose and palate, and I think a touch of water is necessary. The light pepperiness on the palate was a little reminiscent of Talisker, and the leathery note also put me in mind of some (not very highly peated) Longrows I’ve had. Quite nice and it will be interesting to see how this changes as the bottle stays open for a while. I suspect the fruitiness will magnifiy.

Rating: 86 points.

Read a somewhat different take on it here. The difference may be due entirely to the idiosyncrasies of different palates; or it might have something to do with the fact that my pour was from a freshly opened bottle whereas that reviewer’s was from a sample (and may thus have been a little more “oxidized” than mine).

6 thoughts on “Clynelish 15, 1997 (Exclusive Malts)

  1. The rational answer for most people is “no”, because the standard 14 yo is better. But if you like Clynelish a lot and want to explore variations, then, in the US there aren’t that many options available, especially at cask strength.

    As it happens, I got this at a nice discount from Silver Lake Wine (turned out the owner has a nostalgic connection to my place of work). At full retail price I would have passed. Then again, at what’s being asked for the Exclusive Malts Mortlach 17 yo (in the region of $140) this is a relative bargain!

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  2. (Drinking this again tonight, by the way, and liking it a bit more–the nose in particular. Tonight I think I would move it up to 87 points. And no, I don’t know what the difference between 86 and 87 points is.)

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  3. I heartily agree that time in the glass works in this one’s favor. I wouldn’t walk across the street for the OB14, but I like this one very much.

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