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 →
This is the oldest Clynelish I’ve yet had and the second from a sherry cask. I quite liked that SMWSA 29 yo from a refill sherry butt, but not as much as the Single Malts of Scotland 28 yo from a bourbon cask I’d reviewed last year. This is not because of the sherry influence per se. In fact, the sherry influence in the SMWSA 29 yo was quite muted—what held that one back was a lack of complexity, on the whole. This one is also from a refill cask but it is a hogshead and so there’s a good chance that the prized Clynelish characteristics of honey and wax might get drowned out by stronger notes of sherry and oak (from the smaller cask). That didn’t happen with the excellent Manager’s Dram release, but at 17 years old that was less than half the age of this one. But if it’s good, I don’t really care too much one way or the other. And given its antecedents there is a pretty good chance this will be good. It was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the reputed French store, La Maison du Whisky. Continue reading →
1970s Clynelish, especially from the early 1970s, has a very strong reputation. And Diageo’s Rare Malts series also has a very strong reputation. As such I am expecting this to be very good—I am certainly expecting it to be much better than the 7 yo bottled by Signatory for Binny’s. But will it be better than the 28 yo, 1982 bottled by TWE in their Single Malts of Scotland line? Or better than the 17 yo Manager’s Dram? I can only hope. It’s not like I have a lot of experience with older Clynelish—though next month I expect to review a couple more. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
This is the oldest sherried Clynelish I have yet happened upon, and as I think about it, it’s the oldest Clynelish of any kind I’ve yet happened upon (the previous oldest was this lovely 28 yo from 1982 bottled by Speciality Drinks in their Single Malts of Scotland line). Will it be as good as that one or only as good as the last SMWS Clynelish I reviewed (this solid but unexciting 23 yo)? Let’s get right to it and find out.
(Oh, the SMWS dubbed this one “Pomanders in a Lady’s Parlour”.)
Clynelish 29, 1984 (56%; SMWS 26.102; refill shery butt; from a bottle-split)
Nose: Honey and apple juice followed by a pleasant grassiness (not metallic or astringent) and then some wax accompanied by a minerally prickliness. The sherry influence is really restrained: just a bit of toffee and a mild raisiny sweetness. Gets more floral as it goes and there’s some dusty wood too now. With more time the fruit wakes up: lemon, hints of apricot. With a few drops of water it gets even more floral and sweet (with some cream too now). Continue reading →
Let’s close out the week with another bottle from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America. As with the Highland Park 22 I reviewed to start the week, I split this bottle with a number of whisky geeks, though I got more of this than than I did of the other. I’ve not had very many Clynelishes over the age of 20 and so I could not resist. Will this be as good as the Malts of Scotland 22 yo from 1989 that I reviewed earlier in the year? I can only hope. Let’s get right to it.
Clynelish 23, 1990 (48.5%; SMWSA 26.99, “The Fisherman’s Friend”; refill barrel; from a bottle split with a number of whisky geeks)
Nose: Honey, lime zest, green apples, a hint of melon. A bit of wax after a minute or two and then it starts getting grassier. With more time the citrus gets sweeter (oranges now) and then the muskier fruity notes expand. With a lot more time there’s a bit of vanilla. With a few drops of water the citrus turns to citronella and it gets less grassy. More vanilla and cream too now. Continue reading →
Behold the handiwork of Sku, that magnificent bastard. When we met for lunch in Los Angeles, he handed over the box of samples he had for me and said, “After all the grief you gave me last time, I made a real effort with the labels this time”. Of course, when I got home I discovered that while he had indeed made clear labels, he’d put some of them at the base of the bottles and some over the lids; and others (like last week’s Laphroaig 16) over older labels that were still visible. A true artist, I expect his work will soon be featured at MOMA.
Like the aforementioned Laphroaig 16, this Clynelish was also bottled by Signatory for The Whisky Exchange. An 18 yo, this is also from a sherry cask. Let’s see if this is as good as that Laphroaig. Continue reading →