Clynelish 22, 1989 (Malts of Scotland)

Clynelish 22, 1989
This is one of the oldest Clynelishes I’ve had—though at the Clynelish tasting I opened this at we also drank a 28 yo from Single Malts of Scotland (review forthcoming in a few days or weeks). It was bottled in 2011 by the German indie Malts of Scotland. Since then Malts of Scotland’s prices seem to have gone up dramatically and I haven’t noticed very much older Clynelish coming on the market either. Most of what’s available now seems to be from the mid-late 1990s, and this seems to have led some people to develop the usual magic vintage theories about some of those years—1997, in particular.

Who knows what the future holds for Clynelish. I’ve speculated before that Diageo may be positioning it for promotion to the premium end of their portfolio; if that’s true we’ll probably see less and less of it available to indie bottlers, and god only knows what prices will be charged in the future by boutique bottlers like Malts of Scotland and the Whisky Agency.

Clynelish 22, 1989 (53.2%; Malts of Scotland; bourbon hogshead 12012; from my own bottle)

(The picture is of the unopened bottle taken before the tasting referred to above but these notes were taken when the bottle was at the halfway mark.)

Nose: Honey, tart apple transitioning to citrus (lemon with a bit of orange peel), and then it settles down into darker, richer honey with some roasted malt. The tarter fruity notes never go away though and after a bit they begin to take on a fermented character. With more time there’s that famous beeswax and also, surprisingly for a 22 yo malt, a bit of powdered ginger. With a drop of water the waxiness expands and there’s also vanilla and shortbread now.

Palate: Starts out a little simple with clean lemony notes but as I move to swallow there’s a bigger fruity burst: lemon, yes, but now with some bitter lemon peel, along with sweeter touches of orange and tart-sweet apple (I’m reminded of a variety we get here in Minnesota called Haralson). With time it’s like lemon peel that’s been dredged in a mix of sugar and sea salt. With even more time the sweeter notes get more pronounced and the whole gets quite intense. More minerally and peppery with water, and some late developing sweetness too.

Finish: Long. As the more acidic notes wash out the salt I almost always get with Clynelish makes its appearance. And there’s some pepper to go with it. The more intense fruit that emerges with time on the palate hangs around on the finish as well. A slight grassiness now at the end and a slight chalkiness too. As on the palate with water.

Comments: This is really quite nice, if not particularly complex. The grassy/chalky development on the finish I could have done without. Still, I’m very glad I have most of this bottle left.

Rating: 88 points.

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