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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Single Malt Report: Clynelish 14 year old

Stop the presses!  The thesis for this post is one that you have never heard before.  *Ahem*

Clynelish is good.



Also, water is wet.  And night follows day.

Maybe I'm the last one getting on the Clynelish train.

For those new to Clynelish, I recommend Serge Valentin's site about the history of the distillery and its late older brother Brora.

To sum it up, the distillery that is now named Brora (though used to be called Clynelish) existed first and released a peated Highland malt.  150 years after its opening, a new Clynelish distillery was built next door and produced a mostly non-peated malt.  They operated in unison for 14 to 16 years until the whisky crash of the '80s hit.  One distillery survived, the other did not.

Ultimately, Brora distillery is gone, but we have Clynelish.  Or rather, Diageo has Clynelish.  This lovely malt is well loved by blenders as it makes up a significant portion of the higher end Johnnie Walkers, as well as almost all of the Compass Box bottlings.

Diageo only added it to the Classic (and/or Hidden) Malt releases within the past ten years, and only puts out 8000 cases per year at that.  Even with that limited output (and a 46% ABV), Clynelish is still $10-$15 cheaper than Oban 14.

Distillery: Clynelish
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Northern Highlands
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation: ex-bourbon American oak
Age: minimum 14 years
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

I had a glass of this whisky at The Bowery after a crummy work day.  I had it served up in a brandy snifter and I did my best to let it last 45 minutes.

The color is apple juice gold.  The nose starts with citrus rind, pleasant floral notes, and cereal-y malt.  Later, notes of coconut milk, dijon mustard, and booze-soaked chocolate cake take shape.  The palate is spicy and full of barley sugar.  There's some mild tropical fruit, a little bit of fresh cherry, then some vanilla around the edges.  A buttery oak note grows with time.  The finish is of a medium length.  It's spicy and sweet, with the vanilla and fresh cherry notes.

The nose gets much oakier.  There's a little bit of fresh apple juice.  But otherwise most of the other characteristics are silenced.  The palate is nice and silky.  Much more vanilla.  It's sweet, but not sugary, though the spice is gone.  The maltiness is still there and some alcohol heat sticks around.  It finishes malty with lots of vanilla, and dandelion flowers!

As the addition of water really brings out the oak, I prefer this single malt neat.  It hits all the right notes and becomes very very very drinkable.  Because the report was not conducted under optimum circumstances, I can't say if I enjoy it better than Oban 14.  But it is a good competitor.  There will need to be a Taste Off between these two someday soon.

Finally, I would like to encourage you to read Oliver's post on dramming.com entitled "Who Needs Brora And Port Ellen? We Have Clynelish And Caol Ila!".  The sentiment is quite lovely.  Though we've lost Brora, weep not; there are volumes of Clynelish available for us to enjoy every year.

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - $50-$60
Rating - 90