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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Single Malt Report Taste Off! Four 1997 Clynelish (The Second Two)

Yesterday, I posted about the first two 1997 Clynelish (both 14yrs).  Next, I paired up the two '97s that were matured for fifteen years before bottling:

Distillery: Clynelish
Independent Bottler: The Bonding Dram
Age: 15 years (1997-2012)
Maturation: ex-bourbon hogshead
Cask number5733
Limited bottling: 265
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 55.7%

This cask was chosen by a number of whisky geeks then bottled by The Bonding Dram (who also owns whiskysamples.eu) to celebrate the company's fifth anniversary.  While the Whiskybase shop, mentioned yesterday, isin the Netherlands, The Bonding Dram is an online-only shop based in Belgium.  Unlike Whiskybase's Archives, The Bonding Dram does not make a habit of releasing their own bottled malts, so this Clynelish was something out of the ordinary for them.

Sniffed (with pinkie extended) neatly from a 30mL sample bottle via a Glencairn glass
Color - Light gold
Nose - Honey, vanilla, and tropical fruit right up front, along with a surprising flash of sulfur.  Quite a bit of buttery American oak; lots of vanillins. Chocolatey rum with dulce di leche along with he familiar controlled honey/flower/pepper/wax note of official Clynelish. Still some barley in there, side by side with lemon juice and roasted potatoes.
Palate - A dusty pepper that's almost smoke-like. Ripe bananas and vanilla.  While the nose was full of oak, here there's more spirit; not sure it's the ethyl or tannins that are very drying.  Flower blossoms progress to cocoa.  Dirty gin martini with two olives.
Finish -  Sweetens up here.  A hint of citrus and vanilla.  Grilled corn, cocoa, and salt.  The olives and herbs from the gin martini. That pepper/smoke note also brings with it a light pleasant bitterness.

I'm fascinated by the pepper/smoke note.  I've found it in the official 14-year, which is supposedly made from non-peated malt, leaving me wondering "Is this smoke? Is it char? Is it pepper? Is it the desiccation of my liver from a lack of hydration?" No answer to be found, yet.  Dig the dirty martini note, though.

Availability - All gone too
Pricing -  around $95 (minus VAT, plus shipping)
Rating - 86

For more info on this malt, here's an enthusiastic vid from Whisky Rambler Mark Dermul:

Distillery: Clynelish
Independent Bottler: Master of Malt
Age: 15 years (1997-2012)
Maturation: refill ex-bourbon hogshead
Limited bottling: 255
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 56.1%

Master of Malt (MoM), the well-regarded UK online liquor retailer, released this bottling last year.  They have expanded their own indie bottling lines quite a bit and I hope to review at least one more of their whiskies this year.  (One random disclaimer:  While I've had a number of excellent shopping experiences with MoM and recommend them highly, HOLY MOLEY have their shipping rates jumped within the last couple of months.)  Anyway, this was the last '97 Clynelish dram I scooped up and the last one sampled.

Prodded neatly from a 30mL sample bottle via a Glencairn glass
Color - Amber with a little gold
Nose - Lots of bananas! Bananas in caramel, banana creme pie, banana toffee?  Thyme or maybe oregano.  Big oceanic note as well.  Plaster.  Sweaty socks.
Palate - A little on the hot side, but also very thickly textured.  Black pepper and butterscotch.  Fudgy rum and caramel.  A perky floral burst becomes very herbal.
Finish - Most Clynelishy here.  Peppery wax with herbs in the back.  Salted caramels.  That pepper/smoke note.  Dried savory herbs in the distance.

If you like bananas in your whisky you'll likely like this more than I.  Bananas aside, this is the most challenging of the four.  There's the industrial chemical note that develops in the nose after some time and while the ABV is only incrementally higher than the others, the ethyl is much sharper on the tongue.  It's not bad stuff though.  I'd take a difficult Clynelish over a good blend any day.

Availability - All gone too, but they have a new 16yr '97 out now
Pricing -  around $115, new edition is 10GBP cheaper
Rating - 80

The American oak is much more present in these two than the previous two.  The Bonding Dram version is a bit of changeling, always something else with every sip and sniff.  Meanwhile the Master of Malt sample is very focused on its attributes, especially all the bananas in the nose.

My preference of these four whiskies is actually in the order in which I tried them.  They each had their own personality, but at the same time had characteristics that tied them back to the classic officially bottled Clynelish.  I wish I could officially recommend these but they have all sold out since I bought them!  Apparently the word about '97 'Lishes has gotten out.

In the next post, I'm going to attempt to pull these thoughts (about whisky and beyond) together into some conclusions or maybe some more questions...