With an interesting but not excellent Campbeltown stop behind us, let’s take the bourbon cask train up north to the Highlands and see if things improve. On paper, they should. After all, this is a 1997 vintage Clynelish and all the whisky geeks who believe in magical vintages will tell you that 1997 is a special year for Clynelish. It’s also the case that bourbon cask Clynelish in general is a good bet—see this 14 yo from Archives, for instance, and this one from Berry Bros. & Rudd (both from 1997). This was bottled in 2009 by James Macarthur, an outfit that doesn’t seem to be terribly ubiquitous anymore—not in the US anyway. If you have information on their status, please write in below. This is from a single cask but was bottled at 45% for some reason. I got the sample from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and I’m not sure what it means that he doesn’t seem to have gotten round to reviewing his own bottle. Anyway, if this is close to either the Archives or Berry Bros. bottles I’ll be happy—but I won’t believe anymore than I currently do in magical vintages.
Clynelish 12, 1997 (45%; James Macarthur; bourbon cask 11828; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Lemon, honey, prickly oak and, if you insist, sure, a bit of beeswax/honeycomb. After a few minutes there’s a leafy note as well. With more time there’s some sweeter fruit (berries of some kind). Water brings out a bit of cream and vanilla.
Palate: Starts out a bit flat but then all the stuff from the nose comes in and it gets quite spicy. With more time it’s more acidic and then much later there’s an aspirin’ish note that develops. Picks up some steam with water: more lemon, more malt, some chalk and none of the aspirin.
Finish: Medium. Nothing new here. More lemon here too with water and more spicy bite and the finish is longer.
Comments: Apparently the magic of 1997 did not work for this cask. It’s pleasant enough whisky but it’s rather anonymous. Would it have been much better at cask strength? Tough to say—I thought it got better with water as it is.
Rating: 83 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample!