Clynelish 18, 1996 (Signatory for TWE)

Clynelish 18, 1996, Signatory
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

Clynelish 14, 1997 (Archives)

Clynelish 14, Archives
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

Clynelish 28, 1982 (Single Malts of Scotland)

Clynelish 28, 1982
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

Clynelish 22, 1989 (Malts of Scotland)

Clynelish 22, 1989
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.

Continue reading

Clynelish 14

Clynelish 14

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

Clynelish 17, Manager’s Dram

Clynelish, Manager's DramBack 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

Clynelish 14, 1997 (BB&R)

Clynelish 14, 1997

There seems to be a sort of consensus developing that a number of high quality casks of Clynelish distilled in 1997 are about on the market. I’m sure some will or do say that this means that 1997 was a good year at Clynelish. It may well have been, but as I tediously repeat on all such occasions, what it probably really means is that for whatever reason there was a lot more Clynelish available to independent bottlers from the 1997 vintage and so a greater percentage of what got bottled as single malt is likely to have been the pick of what was available. Will this bottle from Berry Bros. & Rudd be one of them?

Clynelish 14, 1997 (55.5%; Berry Bros. & Rudd, casks 4659-61; from a sample received in a swap)

Berry Bros. & Rudd typically don’t specify the cask type but this is almost certainly from bourbon casks of some kind. Also, while the label on the sample bottle says the abv is 56.5%, that’s a transcription error. Continue reading