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
This Clynelish 14, from the Whiskybase boys for their Archives range, was opened last November for the same Clynelish tasting I hosted for some friends that featured the OB 14, a Malts of Scotland 22 yo, and a Single Malts of Scotland 28 yo. I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get around to reviewing this one. It’s not because I don’t like it—I’ve been drinking it down at a steady pace.
That exhausts my patter: so let’s get right to it.
Clynelish 14, 1997 (53.9%; Archives; bourbon hogshead 4634; from my own bottle)
Nose: An almost chalky tartness to start, resolving into lemon and sour apple. Some brine too after a minute. Stays quite acidic with time but a sweeter note does emerge (I’m going to call it apple as well). A faint whiff of paraffin, just bordering on smoky. With a lot more time the acid recedes a bit and there’s a sauvignon blanc’ish thing going on. Water pulls out more of the sweeter apple and the paraffin turns to mothballs. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
This is one of the oldest Clynelishes I’ve had—though at the Clynelish tasting I opened this at we also drank a 28 yo from Single Malts of Scotland (review forthcoming in a few days or weeks). It was bottled in 2011 by the German indie Malts of Scotland. Since then Malts of Scotland’s prices seem to have gone up dramatically and I haven’t noticed very much older Clynelish coming on the market either. Most of what’s available now seems to be from the mid-late 1990s, and this seems to have led some people to develop the usual magic vintage theories about some of those years—1997, in particular.
Who knows what the future holds for Clynelish. I’ve speculated before that Diageo may be positioning it for promotion to the premium end of their portfolio; if that’s true we’ll probably see less and less of it available to indie bottlers, and god only knows what prices will be charged in the future by boutique bottlers like Malts of Scotland and the Whisky Agency.
The Clynelish 14 was my first foray into purchasing whiskies from distilleries whose names I had not previously heard much of. This was some time ago now. I’d seen mention of it in a few places and was a little bit intrigued but it was probably the tall, slim bottle that helped push me over the edge—it didn’t look like any of the other bottles on my not very crowded shelf. So it simultaneously represented both my shallowness and a willingness to take a chance on something that seemed out of the ordinary. I am happy to say that I loved it from the get-go—and, really, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t: it’s such an approachable malt. And after this experience I began to buy bottles from different distilleries without worrying about reputation—so I guess the Clynelish 14 was a crucial step in my eventual development into a crazed whisky geek.
I’ve always had a bottle on my shelves since that first purchase but it’s been a while now since I’ve opened one of them. This bottle was purchased in Minneapolis back in late-2010, so if there have been any changes in the profile since you will not see that reflected in this review. I opened it about 10 days ago for a Clynelish tasting I conducted for a few friends and it made a very good showing alongside some very nice independent bottlings (all of which will show up on the blog over the next month or two). Continue reading
Back in September there was a mini-gathering in St. Paul to celebrate my friend Rich’s birthday. Everybody brought a few special whiskies to share. I have to say these gatherings that Rich organizes every once in a while can be somewhat over the top. The whiskies brought to this tasting, for instance, included the Ardbeg Provenance and the Brora 35, 2013, as well as a couple of Talisker 30s, a Karuizawa and an exquisite, old indie sherried Caol Ila. I should add that despite the quality of whiskies on the table these are very laid back occasions; whether in smaller groups—as on this occasion—or in larger ones, you’d be hard-pressed to find a less pretentious group of whisky geeks. At the end of the evening there was some frenzied sample-swapping (which I may have had something to do with instigating) and I came away with a bunch of samples, large and small, of some very good whiskies, and also the 2014 Ardbeg Supernova. It’s also testament to the mellowness and character of the group that no one demurs when it comes to sharing prized and irreplaceable (not to mention some rather expensive) malts. Continue reading
I’ve not been overly impressed with the few bottles from Kintra Whisky that I’ve tried (though an old Tomintoul I had one small sample of was rather nice). I hope this Clynelish 16 from a refill sherry cask will make it past the mid-80s. I rather came to like the last Clynelish from a sherry cask that I reviewed and that was from 1995 as well.
This is one of only 90 bottles released by Kintra Whisky which suggests a cask split with another bottler.