I’m often asked do I have a favourite distillery? The simple answer is no; for me its all about the voyage and new experiences rather than limiting myself to one producer or region. However when pressed, I’ll offer the overlooked Highland region of Scotland that includes Balblair, Brora, Dalmore, Glenmorangie and of course Clynelish.
Each distillery offers its own unique characteristics and for Clynelish its that subtle waxy note and depth of flavour that makes it so important to Diageo blenders. The staple 14 year old Clynelish is a marvellous thing and receives good distribution so it comes highly recommended if you have the opportunity. Apart from this core release the only other Clynelish is the Distillers Edition from a few years ago that had the added dimension of a sherry cask finish. I’m never a huge fan of these distillers editions from Diageo as quite often they are overpriced for what they are. Simply put many are a short extra cask finish to bang up the price.
This bottle which I bought from the distillery shouldn’t be confused with the Clynelish Distillers Edition. This is pure Clynelish without any fancy tampering and is bottled at cask strength, or 57.3% to be precise. From what I’ve been told they only did one run of this release in 2013 so numbers haven’t been disclosed, but I’d be surprised if it is anymore than 3000 bottles. Unlike the distillers release which has spread out from the host distillery to other sites and retailers, this is only available from Clynelish itself. As if you needed another reason to visit with the glorious Brora next door? I certainly don’t, it is hallowed ground.
This fella isn’t cheap at £80 for a bottle, or you have the added option of paying an extra £5 for the signed edition. Now I’ve seen more of these signed editions appearing at various Diageo distillers with a Talisker for example. Normally these are signed by the distillery manager only but what makes this Clynelish nice is the complete team have signed the bottle in an organised fashion. If my maths are right that’s 13 signatures all over this piece of history making it a nice item for fans of Clynelish.
Speaking of history the above picture shows the bottles alongside the Brora cask template. Most distilleries are moving to barcodes now for obvious reasons and these well used templates are appearing on auction sites or being kept by the distilleries themselves. In the case of this Brora example a member of staff explained how this was found in a warehouse recently by chance and was cleaned up. The end result is a marvellous piece of history that belongs on the site; I was delighted to see it taking pride of place. You can tell that someone has hammered out the letters in meticulous fashion to give us the final piece; quite apt given the quality we associate Brora for today. Oh, take the tour at Clynelish and there is a surprise in the warehouse at the end; that’s all I’m going to say. I’ll be taking the tour again as I just love it. Meanwhile lets have a picture of Brora just because…
This bottle doesn’t come in any packaging or actually contains any details so I cannot even predict how old it is. I suspect it is just the staple 14 year old at natural cask strength yet that’s just guesswork. I’ll have to ask a few more questions next time I’m up north.
Distilled: there is no age statement on this bottle
Price: £80 standard of the staff signed edition (if available) £85
Additional: only available from Clynelish
Well I suppose without further delay we’d best move onto the tasting notes for this little beauty. And finish off with a photograph of the dram.
Colour: surprisingly very little colour in the glass perhaps a weak apple juice
Nose: well its alcohol at 57.3% that’s for sure. After retreating and regaining my senses lets try again. Mmm ginger root, crushed almonds, melted butter and lots of black pepper. This rascal will need a little water for nosing.
Taste: Firstly at cask strength; pure power a lightning bolt from the gods! Certainly next time I’m up north and feeling a little cold this fella will warm me up in no time. At cask strength the alcohol is still to the forefront swamping its characteristics but the long finish is already evident with a waxy, buttery note and almonds again. Right, where’s that bottle of Highland spring water?
Right, round 2 it is then. Some folk use a teaspoon for adding water but I prefer a graduated plastic water dropper for extra control. Remember folks you can always add more but not take it away!
Aroma: 5 drops later and the beast is somewhat tamed but still volatile. A used candle wick fills the air, lemon tart with rich buttery pastry, heather and fresh apples; not a hugely expansive nose but nice.
Taste: More oils fill the mouth, more freshly made apple pie with some custard and creaminess evident and a refreshing citrus finish.
Given the choice I’d probably take the 14 year old over this cask strength edition. It is a mean and perhaps young whisky with a lot of developing still to do. Water is the key component here as it opens up those hidden dimensions. A good whisky but not the best Clynelish I’ve ever tasted although the finish is epic in terms of length. As a bottle in your collection with all the signatures it is a very nice and arguably rare example – proving you’ve gone beyond Islay and Speyside to visit a classic distillery.