After a prolonged period of hiatus, for no particular reason, I am getting back into the swing of writing tasting notes to go with my drams as opposed to just sitting and enjoying them. So to get the show back on the road I am taking a look at a whisky that is apparently held in high regard by ‘connoisseurs’. It is the official bottling of Clynelish, at 14 years old.
Now, before I start getting into the review and tasting the whisky and all the rest there is an issue I feel I have to raise regarding the packaging. It states rather proudly on the packaging that this distillery was founded in 1819 which, if you know your distillery history, is not technically true. The Original Clynelish distillery was indeed founded on this date, but the distillery which this spirit came from was not built until around 1967/68. This is as on this date a second Clynelish distillery was built next to the first. The first, and original, being renamed Brora before being closed just a few years later. It just seems a bit unnecessary to bend the truth here as it’s not going to affect someone’s decision in buying the bottle, it just a bit daft to me. Anyway, swiftly moving on.
Clynelish is a Northern Highland distillery, situated on the coast, in the village of Brora. Like I said previously the distillery that this Clynelish came from was built around 1967/68 and like so many of DCL’s distilleries that were built/rebuilt/extended at this time it was constructed in their modern ‘Waterloo street’ style. A style that can be seen in many distilleries today. A curiosity of Clynelish is their still house. They have six stills at Clynelish, three wash and three spirit, all of a boil-ball design, yet the spirit still are larger than the wash stills unusually. Diageo unveiled plans for expanding the distillery mid 2014 which when completed will see the distillery producing circa 9m LPA.
For the Clynelish 14yo we are looking at I am happy to say it is bottled at higher strength of 46% which would likely mean that it hasn’t been chill-filtered, though I can’t find a solid answer to that, and I doubt that this is natural colour but I could be wrong.
This is a classic Northern Highland whisky. There is earthy Manuka honey, butter scotch, salty sea spray and a maritime spiciness to it too. The first thing that comes forward with this dram is that there is a pronounced sherry cask character coming through. It’s not overly sherried though, it is certainly mainly refill casks that have been used here. Dates, stewed figs and raisins backed up with a maritime spiciness. Sweet vanilla, white pepper, a light dusting of nutmeg and again a salty tang. There is also this classic Clynelish waxy character coming through as well, Clynelish is a very waxy dram and it really does smell waxy on the nose, it’s remarkably like beeswax candles. As well as this there is a fruitiness with notes of lemon rind, bruised pears, tangerines and dried mixed peel. The nose is finished off with fresh almonds, a Turkish delight-like aroma and the gentlest whiff of smoke.
The palate starts off sweet with runny honey and white chocolate before quickly becoming very bitter and drying. It’s very woody on the palate and really cask dominated. Drying, tannic seasoned oak comes through with nutmeg, tobacco leaves and damp sawdust. After this blasting of woodiness there is bitter lemon rind, bay leaf, coriander and again that almost waxy character with a perfumed heathery taste. The salty tang becomes prominent again about halfway through the development and carries on right through to the finish.
The finish is medium in length and has a fairly waxy mouth feel. There isn’t a great deal to say about the finish. The bitterness and saltiness from the palate just carry on through the finish with a light amount of spice and tonnes of woodiness. A slight touch of smoke mingles in with the bitterness but it’s fairly nondescript.
Well, I must say for a whisky so revered and held in high esteem by so many I must say I was a bit disappointed, but everyone has different tastes. The nose here was a definite highlight, the nose was so busy and inviting, but when you go to taste it it just falls a bit short of expectation. I think that it is just as well that they bottled this at 46% as I think if it was presented at 40% it would be pretty underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong here, I still enjoyed this whisky, I’ve already enjoyed about half the bottle and will definitely enjoy the second half just as much, it’s just that for me I would like a bit more liveliness on the palate. For a 14yo whisky at a pretty reasonable price – usually around the £40 mark – I think the nose is certainly up there amongst the best for this price range, but for my taste the palate and finish are not quite there. But that is the wonder of whisky; everyone has different tastes and like different things.