I purchased this Clynelish (the oldest I’ve ever had) from the Whisky Exchange in December 2011 (this is from their own line, Single Malts of Scotland) and it took me almost three years to open it. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was the growing certainty that I would likely never be able to afford a Clynelish of this age again—back in 2011 this cost only a little over $100 ex. vat. At any rate, I opened it last November for a small group tasting of Clynelish that I hosted for some members of our local tasting group. We started that night with the OB 14, moved on to a single cask 14 yo from Whiskybase’s Archives series, then the 22 yo, 1989 from Malts of Scotland and then finally this one. As good as the others were, this one was just in a different class, and everyone had a big smile on their face nosing it. I’ve been sipping it from time to time since then and have been looking forward to sitting down and spending some time with a large pour. That time is now.
Clynelish 28, 1982 (43.1%; Single Malts of Scotland; hogshead 3985; from my own bottle)
Nose: Honey, toffee, light maple syrup, wood glue. Just lovely. On the second sip it’s much waxier with honeycomb and little hints of sweet oranges and a touch of apricot. Gets a little bit prickly too now with a faint but not at all unpleasant grassiness. Somehow both intense and delicate at the same time. After a couple of minutes the wood begins to emerge: a bit of liquorice and oak spice. With even more time there’s shortbread and a bit of candied ginger as well. No real change with water.
Palate: Less intense on the palate and a little sharper, but it’s more or less most of the same stuff from the nose. Different emphasis though: the grassiness is closer to the front and the citrus is right there with it; the honeyed sweetness shows up later with some lemon zest. On the second sip the fruit is much more expressive (here’s the apricot now) and the honey expands with it. Stays much the same with time. The texture is just a little too thin (not surprising given the age and abv). As happens sometimes, a drop of water seems to actually add body and some intensity (to the fruit in particular).
Finish: Medium. The texture thins out a bit too much at the end and as the sweeter notes fade out it’s the prickly oak spice that remains. Water brings out some wet stones and then some salt.
Comments: A lovely nose, the palate just a bit below, and the finish a little weaker still. Still, this is excellent stuff, and in a completely different league than the OB 14 yo in more ways than one. Tasting them side by side, as we did back in November, you can certainly see through lines, and with the 22 yo from Malts of Scotland in between you can certainly plot them easily on a continuum; but if your Clynelish experience were limited to the OB 14 and the Distiller’s Edition—as mine was for a long time—in a vaccum you might not even guess this was a Clynelish. I’m tempted to say that this is a function of age but this is in the same genre as the excellent Manager’s Dram and that was a 17 yo. And, on the whole, I think I liked that one more. Still, I wish I had purchased more than one of this one back in 2011.
Rating: 90 points.