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Monday, November 30, 2020

Clynelish 21 year old 1996 van Wees The Ultimate, cask 8793

I'm pretty thankful for the many good Highland single malts, so I'm going to review three 20-something year old Highland whiskies this week, two from Clynelish. Two sherry cask Clynelish in fact.

The first one is from The Ultimate series by van Wees. I used to be a big fan of this range when it was full of a wide variety of mid-aged single malts at very competitive prices, including some gems from Longmorn and Laphroaig. But at least 3/4s of their output today is made up of single-digit-aged casks from Signatory's warehouses. The prices are fine, but how much 8 year old Glen Spey does the world really need?

Anyhoo, this one, a refill sherry butt bottled in 2017, was from the tail-end of that earlier era. It's one of those rare Clynelishes not yet reviewed by Mr. Clynelish himself.

: Clynelish
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Highlands (North)
Bottler: van Wees (The Ultimate series)
Age: 21 years (8 October 1996 - 2 November 2017)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask number8793
Limited bottling: 623
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thank you to Dr. Springbank for the sample!)

At first the nose goes light on the sherry. There are apricots, golden raisins, walnuts and dusty book pages. After 45 minutes black raisins roll out, followed by cherry jam and vanilla. The palate never goes easy on the sherry. Grape jam, bitter chocolate, PX and charred beef. Cherry yogurt and peppery arugula. It has quite the thick mouthfeel throughout. It finishes with cherry jam, grape jam, jalapeño oil and caramel.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes darker, if one can smell darkness. Wood smoke, copper and soil. Dried cherries, prunes and mixed nuts. The jams and prunes have abandoned the palate, nut butters and baking spices have taken their place with hints of vanilla pudding and oranges in the background. The not-too-sweet finish shows nut butters, vanilla pudding and citrus.

The whisky's light gold color misled me into thinking this was going to Clynelish-forward. Instead it was ~90% cask, which was kind of a letdown. The world does need more 20+ year old Clynelish, but not when it's buried under the cask or the vessel's previous contents. It's not a bad whisky at all, but the source distillery could be nearly any facility in the Highlands and much of Speyside. So if you're just looking for 20+ year old sherried whisky, this'll serve that purpose. If you're looking for Clynelish, you may want to search elsewhere.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84