Clynelish 14, 1997 (BB&R)

Clynelish 14, 1997

There seems to be a sort of consensus developing that a number of high quality casks of Clynelish distilled in 1997 are about on the market. I’m sure some will or do say that this means that 1997 was a good year at Clynelish. It may well have been, but as I tediously repeat on all such occasions, what it probably really means is that for whatever reason there was a lot more Clynelish available to independent bottlers from the 1997 vintage and so a greater percentage of what got bottled as single malt is likely to have been the pick of what was available. Will this bottle from Berry Bros. & Rudd be one of them?

Clynelish 14, 1997 (55.5%; Berry Bros. & Rudd, casks 4659-61; from a sample received in a swap)

Berry Bros. & Rudd typically don’t specify the cask type but this is almost certainly from bourbon casks of some kind. Also, while the label on the sample bottle says the abv is 56.5%, that’s a transcription error.

Nose: A peppery, minerally grassiness (if such a thing is possible). Some sweet peat below that and also quite a lot of brine all around it. With time there are strong whiffs of pine/menthol. The sweet, minerally notes expand with time and there’s something just a little bit gingery about it too. Reminds me of some of the whiskies from the 1970s that I’ve recently tasted–that is to say, rather austere in its pleasures. The brine turns to salt crystals with time. With even more time there’s malty sweetness and even musky fruit. With water there’s lemon, a lot of lemon and it turns quickly to preserved lemon rind and then to citronella; later the musky fruit comes to the fore again (some peach maybe).

Palate: Starts out hot and prickly and peppery and then makes a sharp lemony turn as the alcohol bite eases, and then there’s some of that minerally, mildly peaty sweetness below it as well and some nice malty notes. Needs some water though. Water takes the edge of the alcohol and now it’s a lovely mix of lemon, wet stones and pepper.

Finish: Medium. The lemon lingers and at the end there’s peppery wood spice. Water lengthens the finish and keeps the lemon/pepper duet going. The pepper really expands with time.

Comments: Quite nice if you like this kind of profile, which I do. For the most part it’s a narrow band of aromas and flavours. I’m not sure if that’s an artifact of the stage of the bottle’s life that the sample was poured at or if it was like this the whole way through. That said, with time, water and air there are musky/tropical fruit notes on the nose of which there’s no hint at first.

Rating: 87 points.

Thanks to Alex S. for the sample!

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