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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Clynelish 29 year old 1984 SMWS 29.102 (and Easy Rider)

As a parent of two children, I have discovered that the only way to get anything done is to do many things at once. Multitasking at work, multitasking at play. (For instance, I'm typing this post while eating breakfast.) It's not my preferred method of existence, but it's the only way I can get around to viewing a film once or twice a year.

This past weekend I consumed two samples of Clynelish with the same age, bottler, cask type and "vintage" (I prefer "birthday") while watching Easy Rider, a flick I hadn't seen in 20+ years. Easy Rider holds together better than I'd expected from a Dennis Hopper joint, almost solely due to heavy lifting on the editing flatbed. The story actually starts at the beginning, jumping right in without titles and — likely to the shock of many viewers 50 years ago — with Peter Fonda speaking titles-free Spanish. The structure is episodic, but there's little time wasted in the kinetic interstitial riding sequences. When it finishes at the 95-minute mark, Easy Rider feels both full and incomplete, like the lives of its antiheroes. Adventures were had, but a larger exploration was left unfinished.

This is where the Clynelish pair fits in. Whiskies of advanced age require an hour long tasting, in my opinion. They need time and space, rarely revealing their secrets up front. Also, despite what you may think of this glamorous blog, I don't drink 25+ year old whiskies on the reg, so I like to make them last as long as possible. And by "them" I mean whiskies like the two 29 year old Clynelish I'm reviewing today and tomorrow.

Distillery: Clynelish
Owner: Diageo
Region: Northern Highlands
Independent bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 29 years (13 December 1984 to 2014)
Maturation: Refill sherry butt
"Funny" name: Pomanders in a lady's parlour
Cask number26.102
Outturn: 416
Alcohol by Volume: 56.0%
(thanks to Brett P for the sample!)

The nose is loaded with zests (orange and lime), roses and melted candle wax at the start. That's followed by butterscotch, vanilla and sour apple candies. It gains more of that candied note with time but also holds onto a soft grassiness underneath. Meanwhile, the palate begins with lots of lemons and dulce de leche. Small notes of fresh ginger and bitter horseradish appear here and there. Some smoked nuts. It's very drinkable and never too sweet. The looooong finish is full of citrus, salt and peppery smoke. Hints of sugar and toasted grains.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose reads a little hotter, curiously. But there's oranges, roses, vanilla, hay and ground mustard seed. The palate feels hotter, sweeter, bitterer. Louder, I guess. Lemons, vanilla, spicy mint. It's a little grassy and has the bite of an herbal liqueur. It finishes with citrus, peppery smoke, roses and mint.

Pretty darn good whisky this Clynelish, especially when neat. It balances sweetness, tartness and herbal bitterness. Smoke, or the illusion thereof, drifts up unexpectedly. It has some stamina to it, never fading out, getting only more raucous when diluted. This must have been a third- or fourth-fill sherry butt because the cask did only what it needed to do, hold the whisky and let it grow old.

I think this was $150 when it came out, which makes it a better deal than yesterday's Caol Ila. Yes, I just said something nice about SMWS. Again. What is the world coming to??? Find out tomorrow.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $150?
Rating - 88