This Clynelish was purchased and split at the same time as this Glencadam, also bottled by Blackadder. I thought that Glencadam was fine but nothing special. Will this Clynelish be much better? So far I have to say my experience with sherried Clynelish has been mixed. I loved this older one from Chieftain’s bottled for K&L but was less excited about two teenagers from Whiskybroker and Signatory (though I did think the Signatory improved markedly after the bottle had been open for a while). Well, let’s get right to it.
Clynelish 16, 1996 (58.6%; Blackadder Raw Cask; sherry butt #8782; from a bottle split with friends)
Nose: Obviously sherried but not massively so. Salted nuts mixed with raisins, and something a little vegetal/leafy too. Gets brinier as it sits and then darker sherried notes begin to develop: dried orange peel, a bit of toffee. The salt never goes away but it gets more winey with time (without ever becoming off-puttingly winey). After ten minutes or so it gets quite raisiny. Water emphasizes the sherry, and there’s more fruit now (plums).
Palate: Starts out with salt and citrus mixed but then the salt explodes. Two seconds later the citrus explodes, going from orange to zesty lemon. On the second sip the salt dominates the citrus. And on the third and fourth sips too. With more time though the citrus begins to fight its way through the salt again. Okay, let’s see what water does. Ah yes, water makes this less like whisky night at the old salt lick, and provides some support for the lemon. The fruit that developed on the nose doesn’t show up on the palate though.
Finish: Long. Salt and lemon and then the sherry separates just a tad with that tell-tale taste of iron/blood. As on the palate it’s the salt that gets stronger as it goes, with that leafy quality from the nose appearing as well. Indeed, well after the swallow it’s the leafy note that hangs around the longest. A little more sweetness at the very end with water.
Comments: As much as I love nicely sherried malts, I always worry, as I’ve said before, that there’s likely to be a sort of regression to the mean, with the sherry character rather than distillery character being dominant (that is to say, many sherried malts from different distilleries taste more like each other than like ex-bourbon malts from the same distillery). That’s not really the case here as the salt I associate with Clynelish is here in spades. (The famous waxiness is not, but then I don’t always get that in bourbon cask Clynelish either.) At first, I feared this might in fact be way too salty on the palate, but time and water provided some nice balance. And while I did enjoy at an intellectual level the fact that the palate goes down a different path than the nose (sticking to the salt and lemon) I probably would have preferred if it were more like the nose. I’ll be interested to come back to this in a few weeks now that there’s some headspace in the jar it’s in.
Rating: 86 points.