This Clynelish was acquired as part of the same set of bottle splits as last Friday’s Ardmore. If you read that review you’ll find many similar notes mentioned in this one but, as you’ll see, a much lower score at the end. This is a case where you have two whiskies at different ends of the same style continuum: a sort of old-school Highlands profile. The Ardmore is peatier, of course, but there are other similarities. The problem here is that some of the notes that are either more muted in that Ardmore, or which dissipate with time, are stronger here and linger; and this one doesn’t have the compensations of the Ardmore. It’s also quite far away from what most people have come to expect from Clynelish in terms of “distillery character“. This is down partly, I think, to the young age. Some of these off-notes might well have dissipated with more time (and less wood contact in a slightly larger hogshead) and other characteristics might have emerged.
I wouldn’t recommend a bottle but I think, flaws and all, it’s not an un-educational malt—at the split price I have absolutely no regrets. I do have a little more of this left from my share—I’m going to let that get more air for a few more weeks and then I’ll come back to it and see if there’s any change of note.
Interesting that Binny’s picked at least two malts in this general profile—it makes me wonder if their Glen Garioch will also be similar (that’s another distillery that often presents these kinds of austere qualities).
Clynelish 7, 2008 (63.8%; Signatory for Binny’s; bourbon barrel 800001; from a bottle split)
Nose: Some lemon, some minerally/plasticky notes and then whiffs of engine oil and a vegetal/rooty astringency. This needs air and probably a fair bit of water. With time the lemon expands some. With water there’s an aspirin’ish note.
Palate: Starts with something sweet and then there’s a bit of lemon before the bitter plasticky, vegetal notes come crashing in. Oily texture. More of the same on the second sip but this time the sweet notes (minerally) and the lemon (zest) get more play. There’s hope for this. With time the lemon turns to lime by which I mean both the acidic fruit and the bitter peel; the sweeter notes expand too. Sweeter still with water and less bitter—the plasticky thing is back though.
Finish: Medium. The bitter notes don’t last, thankfully, and at the end there’s the saline notes I usually get from Clynelish. There’s something medicinal building too (not in an Islay peaty way). With water the plasticky notes last well into the finish.
Comments: Blind I would probably have guessed this was a Tobermory—this is on account of the vegetal notes. It seemed like it had potential with time and water but it didn’t really pan out. It does better with some patience but you might not think that what emerges is quite worth it anyway.
Rating: 76 points.