This week of reviews of malts from Highland distilleries began with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. Let’s go further north now to Clynelish in the northern highlands and add a year to the age. Unlike Monday’s Inchmoan, which was made with wine yeast used in the fermentation process, there is nothing, as far as I know, out of the ordinary about this Clynelish. It was released by Signatory in their Unchillfiltered Collection. Signatory released a few of these 11 year olds from the 2008 vintage and I’m sorry to say that not having realized that before this evening I failed to ask the source of my samples for more specific cask information—and now I can’t remember who the source of my samples was! As always, getting old is a lot of fun. Anyway, of those 2019 releases were from bourbon barrels and so we know what the cask type is. Anyway: bourbon cask Clynelish is almost always a good thing and Signatory has always been a good source of Clynelish casks. And so I am hopeful that this will not disappoint. Let’s see. Continue reading
The week and month got off to a great start on Monday with the 2021 release of the Springbank 10. Here now is another official distillery release, the Clynelish 14, once one of only two releases from the distillery (along with the rarely seen Distiller’s edition). When I first started drinking single malt whisky this was one of my very favourite whiskies. I remember purchasing a bottle along with one of the Lagavulin 16 from Astor in New York in the mid-2000s. Thanks to Astor’s then seemingly permanent Lagavulin sale I got both for $100. Anyway, though I liked it very much in those days, I’ve lost track of the Clynelish 14 in the last several years. Indeed, I haven’t reviewed it since 2014 and that was of a bottle purchased before 2010. And so I was very happy to take the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a recent release (this is from 2018). Let’s see what it’s like.
Clynelish Week began with a 23 yo second-fill Oloroso butt bottled by Single Cask Nation and continued with a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory Vintage. Here now to close it out is a 17 yo bourbon cask bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Despite my usual preferences I liked the second-fill butt more than the refill sherry butt. Where will this bourbon cask fall? Let’s see.
Clynelish 17, 1997 (55.2%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 4050; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet fruit off the top (peach, nectarine) along with some oak and some honeycomb. As it sits there’s more lemon (candied) at first and then some malt. With time there’s quite a bit of toasted oak. The fruit expands and gets quite a bit muskier with several drops of water. Continue reading
Clynelish week began on Monday with a 23 yo second-fill oloroso butt bottled by the American outfit, Single Cask Nation. That was just excellent. Here now is a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory. Given my stated cask preferences for Clynelish—ex-bourbon and refill sherry over heavier sherry influence—you might expect I’d be likely to like this one even more. But individual casks easily buck trends/preferences. I liked that 23 yo quite a bit more than another Signatory-bottled Clynelish 21, 1995 that I reviewed a few years ago. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.
Clynelish 21, 1995 (51.2%; Signatory; refill sherry butt 8688; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very similar to the 23 yo with leafy notes mixed in with citrus (lemon, makrut lime) and salt. Ginger shows up on the second sniff along with malt and this too has a big Ben Nevis crossover going on. Gunpowder on the third sniff and then some sweet fruit begins to poke out as it sits (peach). Water brightens it up and pushes back the leafy notes; it does also emphasize the (savoury) gunpowder. Continue reading
Okay, another single distillery week to close out the month (see last week’s Caol Ila reviews here, here and here). This will take the count of my year’s Clynelish reviews from zero to three. We’ll do these in decreasing order of age.
First up is a 23 yo distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2018 from a second-fill oloroso butt. I am among those who prefers Clynelish from bourbon casks or from refill sherry but I am also among those who manages to enjoy good whisky even if it doesn’t fit in his usual preferences. By the way, I have previously reviewed another Clynelish 23, 1995 that was also from a sherry butt (though that was described as a refill butt). That one was part of K&L’s 2019 exclusives and I liked it fine—as I also did a Clynelish 21, 1995 that was a Whisky Exchange exclusive and also from a sherry cask. Well, all of that suggests that the floor for this one is likely to be at least very good. Let’s see. Continue reading
As we wait, wait, wait for election results to come in, here is a review of a Clynelish: my third review overall of a 20+ yo Clynelish from 1989 and only my second Clynelish review for the year. Data! Everyone loves meaningless data, right? Maybe I’ll apply for a job at fivethirtyeight.com. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, this is the third 1989 Clynelish I’ve had and it’s the third from a bourbon cask to boot. The previous two were 22 and 23 years old, respectively and I liked the 23 yo more than the 22 yo. This one is 24 years old. That might seem like a guarantee of extra goodness but that extra year could have been fatal. Let’s see if that was indeed the case.
Clynelish 24, 1989 (53.1%; Adelphi; refill bourbon cask 3846; from my own bottle)
Nose: Honey, lemon zest, a bit of pepper and yes, wax. A little grassier on the second sniff and a little herbal (sage). Gets more savoury as it sits with some ham brine. With more time there’s some sweeter fruit (apricot). Not a tremendous change with water: some cream, less ham, but otherwise more or less the same mix. Continue reading
Alas, I don’t have another Ardmore with which to make this a full week of Ardmore reviews to match last week’s Benromach trio. But I do have a sample of another SMWS malt with which to make it a week of SMWS review. Let’s go a bit to the west and then to the north, to Clynelish. After Wednesday’s red wine finish misadventure we’re back to a bourbon cask. Unlike Monday’s Ardmore, however, this is a barrel, not a hogshead and it’s a first-fill not refill cask; it’s also much younger. That combination of a smaller cask size and more active wood can be an overbearing one for a young whisky such as this; but in theory, at least, Clynelish’s spirit should be able to stand up to it. Let’s see if that’s been the case here.
Clynelish 8, 2010 (57.5%; SMWS 26.104; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Toasted oak, ripe pear, apple cider, sweet malt. Very nice indeed. As it sits sweeter notes come to the fore—more apple along with the pear–but the oak and the cider are still here. With water and a few beats the fruit gets muskier: lemon peel, pineapple. Continue reading
As I said in my post looking ahead to this month’s reviews, I recently participated in a split of a large number of bottles from K&L’s recent run of exclusive casks. In so doing I broke a promise to myself that I would not fall anymore for the promise of these exclusive casks, very few of which have in the past delivered for me. But I have poor impulse control. Hence this Clynelish which is being sold for $250 before tax, accompanied by K&L’s usual mix of over-the-top lyricism and incoherence. I don’t really spend this kind of money on any whisky anymore but I couldn’t resist 2 ounces to see if it could possibly live up to the breathless descriptions of it as a “legendary cask” of “superlative quality”, “deep and profound like the ocean itself” posing questions to the unprepared drinker such as “if you were a hotdog would you eat yourself?” and so on. Of course, what they don’t say is that there have been a large number of these sherried Clynelishes hitting the market in the last couple of years, getting more expensive each year—I reviewed a 21 yo, 1995 almost exactly two years ago, a Signatory exclusive for the Whisky Exchange that went for £120. Will this cask, two years older, really be so different from the sherried mean? Let’s see. Continue reading
I’ve never been clear on what the peating level is of the malt from which modern Clynelish is made. Scotchwhisky.com says their malt is unpeated but I consistently find at least mild levels of peat in almost all Clynelish I’ve had, including the OB 14 yo. And in some indie releases I find more smoke than that—never phenolic, usually leafy or dry wood smoke. This Van Wees release of two bourbon hogsheads vatted together is in the latter category. I found smoke in it when I opened the bottle and it seems to be more palpable in every pour. So, what’s the story? Is it that in the early ’90s Clynelish was using more heavily peated malt than they have been of late? Or is it that they do some peated runs? Or is the smoke showing up from random casks that may previously have held peated whisky from one of Diageo’s other distilleries? I don’t know but if you have any insight into this please write in below. Continue reading
There’s just one episode of Game of Thrones to go and nobody has any hope of the show suddenly beginning to make sense again in the finale. Too much has been rushed for the last couple of seasons—and really rushed this season—and consistency of character and plot have been sacrificed to the need to just get to the end. The show gained its identity—via the books—from unexpected reversals of genre expectations but then got trapped in the cycle of having to constantly present the unexpected (arguably this is true of the books as well). We are all prisoners to plot, serving out our sentence and there’s only one more episode to go. At least the show is making it hard for us to miss it when it’s gone.
And speaking of things that don’t make sense, here is the House Tyrell whisky from Diageo’s Game of Thrones marketing tie-in (see here for the ones I’ve previously reviewed). I’m sure Diageo has their reasons for making the House Tyrell whisky a Clynelish but from where I’m sitting it makes about as much sense as the zombie Mountain suddenly developing agency. Clynelish is in the northern Highlands whereas House Tyrell’s seat at Highgarden is in the south of Westeros. Clynelish is by the sea, Highgarden is by a river. And so on. On the plus side, this is the only cask strength release in this series. The Queen of Thorns would have approved. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Clynelish was my fifth DIageo distillery visit, and the second of this trip (after Cragganmore), and I wasn’t sure what to expect. While my visit to Lagavulin last year had been a highlight—both for the Warehouse Experience and for the general vibe at the distillery—and my brief stop at Cragganmore likewise very pleasant, I feared that the more perfunctory attitude I encountered at Talisker and Oban might make an appearance again at Clynelish. I was very happy to be proved completely wrong. We stopped here on our way from Dornoch to Wick. The distillery is located only 30 minutes or so from Dornoch, and it’s a lovely drive there up the coast. Given my expectations—and also the fact that I had a tour booked at Pulteney at 2 pm that day—I had not planned for a tour at Clynelish and so what I have for you is my usual look at the grounds and at the Visitor Centre/shop. Continue reading
We stopped at Clynelish on the way from Dornoch to Scrabster, where we boarded the ferry to Stromness on Orkney. Well, more immediately, we stopped at Clynelish on the way to Wick. I was scheduled to tour Pulteney at 2, but it seemed rash to drive by Clynelish without even stopping. I hadn’t planned to buy anything there but when I was in the distillery shop I chatted a bit with one of the staff and she offered me a taste of the current distillery exclusive. Apparently this was selected by the distillery staff, though they had no idea of the age or composition (or they would not say). It’s not a bottle-your-own—they had loads of it on the shelves. I quite liked it and couldn’t resist overpaying for a bottle. Why do I say “overpaying”? Well, because I paid £80 for an NAS whisky, and one that’s not at cask strength. Yes, unlike the 2008 edition—which may have been the previous distillery exclusive—this is bottled at 48%. That’s not a bad abv per se, but the price is still high (as it was at Oban and Talisker last year—and their distillery exclusives were NAS as well). I’ll probably have a post later this month with some thoughts on the whole “distillery only”/”bottle your own” thing. For now here’s a review of the whisky itself. I opened it for my local group’s July tasting and we all liked it a fair bit. Continue reading
On Monday I posted a review of an official Clynelish released a decade ago. Today I have another Clynelish, doubtless much older than the NAS distillery exclusive bottle, but released a few years later. This was bottled by the Belgian independent, Thosop Import, known both for the quality of its releases and the handwritten labels on the bottles. Thosop was originally set up by one-time Malt Maniac, Luc Timmermans, but I believe he quit the business a while ago. I think I recall that someone else took over the series. I’m not sure if it’s still a going concern—I suspect not, as Whiskybase doesn’t list anything from them after 2013. This particular Clynelish has a very strong reputation. I’ve not had too many older Clynelishes from the late 1980s, but the only other I’ve reviewed—a 22 yo from Malts of Scotland, also from 1989—was very good indeed. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Let’s see. Continue reading
Clynelish is another of Diageo’s iconic distilleries from which very few official expressions are available. There’s the always reliable 14 yo and a Distiller’s Edition—which sees that 14 yo “finished” in oloroso casks, and which is not as easily found in the US as the Lagavulin and Talisker Distiller’s Editions. That’s pretty much it. Diageo have not yet gotten around to releasing a regular NAS Clynelish, though one such did come out as part of their annual Special Release collection a couple of years ago. This one is an official release but when released in 2008, it was only available at the distillery. It is an NAS bottle—-back in 2008 nobody got exercised about NAS releases—and I have no idea how old it is or is rumoured to be in reality. (I purchased the bottle at auction in the UK a while ago.) I’m not sure if Clynelish regularly releases “distillery only” bottles. If all goes according to plan, I might stop at Clynelish in June and I guess I might take a look and see. For now here’s my review of an exclusive from a decade ago. Continue reading
1997 is supposed to be the magic year for Clynelish. My last 1997 Clynelish lacked magic. It’s not the fault of that whisky: the whole magic vintage thing is a lot of bullshit. I will not bore you by going over all that again—if you’re interested you can read my views here and here. Let’s just get directly to this 17 yo from a bourbon hogshead, bottled a couple of years ago by C&S, a bottler based in Germany.
Clynelish 17, 1997 (47%; C&S Dram Collection; bourbon hogshead #5730; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Citrus (lemon peel, orange), a faint grassiness, some brine and okay, I could be talked into a little wax. With more time there’s a biscuity/malty thing going on as well. Less grassy, more biscuity with water. Continue reading
It’s intoxicating, being a blogger who posts reviews of currently available whiskies! After Monday’s Bowmore, here is another Signatory exclusive for The Whisky Exchange. I’d guess they were released at the same time (were there others?). This one is quite a bit cheaper despite being older and despite being from another name distillery and also despite being from a sherry cask. As to whether being from a sherry cask is a good thing for Clynelish is another matter. There are those who believe that Clynelish is Clynelish only when matured in bourbon casks. Me, I like to keep an open mind. I’ve previously liked my fair share of ex-sherry Clynelish—including this one that was also distilled in 1995—and I’ve also had ex-bourbon Clynelish, including those from the alleged, magic year of 1997 that did not get me too excited. And even if it isn’t very Clynelish I’m not going to be too disappointed as long as it’s at least a good whisky. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Well, here’s my first whisky review after the apocalypse. A too quick return to business as usual, you might say; but returning to old routines, I’ve had other, more personal reasons to recently learn, is a good way to deal with potentially paralyzing news. Anyway, as I continue to process what this election means and how I should engage with my world in response to it, here’s one of a few reviews that were written in a more innocent time, when I dared believe Sam Wang’s projection of a >99% chance of a Clinton win. We can’t go forward in complacency or denial but we can’t give up on pleasure either. If we do that then Rudy Giuliani wins.
Clynelish 25, 1984 (48.9%; SMWSA 26.67; refill sherry butt; from a sample from a friend) Continue reading