The Clynelish 14 was my first foray into purchasing whiskies from distilleries whose names I had not previously heard much of. This was some time ago now. I’d seen mention of it in a few places and was a little bit intrigued but it was probably the tall, slim bottle that helped push me over the edge—it didn’t look like any of the other bottles on my not very crowded shelf. So it simultaneously represented both my shallowness and a willingness to take a chance on something that seemed out of the ordinary. I am happy to say that I loved it from the get-go—and, really, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t: it’s such an approachable malt. And after this experience I began to buy bottles from different distilleries without worrying about reputation—so I guess the Clynelish 14 was a crucial step in my eventual development into a crazed whisky geek.
I’ve always had a bottle on my shelves since that first purchase but it’s been a while now since I’ve opened one of them. This bottle was purchased in Minneapolis back in late-2010, so if there have been any changes in the profile since you will not see that reflected in this review. I opened it about 10 days ago for a Clynelish tasting I conducted for a few friends and it made a very good showing alongside some very nice independent bottlings (all of which will show up on the blog over the next month or two).
Clynelish 14 (46%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Mild farmy peat and mild sherried notes (dried orange peel, honey). Gets brinier and pricklier as it sits but the orange peel also gets stronger. The citrus brightens up with some water and there’s a hint of paraffin too now.
Palate: As on the nose at first but a lot more salt and some roasted cereals. And the citrus is somewhere between orange and lemon. Nice mouthfeel and a bit more bite than you’d expect even at 46%. After the first sip, not so much farmy peat here as a leathery, mossy quality. A little sweeter with water, and a little less of the citrus, but not whole lot of other change.
Finish: Long. The fruit hangs around—and there are some sweeter notes now to go with the citrus—but it’s the salt that’s dominant and longest lasting. Gets more minerally and flinty as it goes. With more time the salt comes into better balance with all the other notes and now there’s more pepper too.
Comments: I’ve said before that I find a through-line defying regionality between Springbank/Longrow, Clynelish and Highland Park and this OB 14 is good evidence—it’s closer to Springbank than Highland Park though. Seems to me to have a little more sherried character than I remember from before, but it certainly hasn’t slipped in the 10 years or so since I first tried it. (I preferred it neat tonight.)
Rating: 87 points.