Gordon & MacPhail produce a very interesting and radically diverse range of whiskies. I guess that’s just the way with independent bottlers, rather than the distilleries themselves (with a few exceptions, such as Bruichladdich and GlenDronach). Having been the preserve of single malt whiskies in an era when they were not so fashionable, they still crack on with quietly releasing decent whiskies, at usually phenomenal value in today’s climate, and they don’t make much of a song and dance about it either (other than dropping the occasional 70 year old whisky). Today I have a very good whisky from Gordon & MacPhail – a Clynelish from 2001.
Clynelish is one of those distilleries that makes grizzled old whisky drinkers sigh. Today it’s a base of many a Johnnie Walker blend. The original distillery was built in 1819 by the Marquess of Stafford, but closed in May 1968 when a new, adjacent facility was constructed. The new digs were called Clynelish. But due to a quirk of fate, where there was a shortage of peated whisky from Islay, the old facility sparked into life once again to produce peated spirit. This old distillery was renamed Brora.
Brora closed in 1983. Its whiskies are highly sought-after by connoisseurs, collectors and evil money-makers, and its owners, Diageo, take delight in effortlessly unburdening Brora fans of their savings with each new, rare release. But with Clynelish, because it’s still going, you’ll find it’s mostly the connoisseurs who seek it out. In fact, it is one of those distilleries that crusty old whisky lovers tend to… well, just love. You won’t find many Shoreditch hipsters taking a selfie with a bottle of Clynelish.
I digress… This particular bottle of Clynelish was distilled on 28th January 2001, and bottled on 27th January 2016 at just a day shy of 15 years. It’s a vatting of casks 307849 and 307850, which were both refill sherry casks. Bottled at 54% ABV, it costs under £60.
Gordon & MacPhail Clynelish 2001
On the nose: exceptionally good combination of dried fruits combined with a more industrial, heavier undertone – in many ways a bit of a mellow Springbank. Spent matches, almost coal like (without it ever being ashy) and then washed over with raisins, prunes, golden syrup. Toffee. Caramel.
In the mouth: Orange marmalade. Ginger. BBQ meat. A little tartness, but gorgeous fruitiness from prunes, dates, raisins again. A pleasant oiliness to the texture, though not especially viscous. A touch of charred meat lingering. Five spice. Warmth from the wood, with a tannin that’s hidden under the sort of coal-like sulphur note (which is a positive, in my book).
Simple yet vibrant, but all the flavours come together superbly. It has a lot of presence in the glass. A lot of attitude, and indeed will continue make grizzled old whisky drinkers sigh. At under £60 it’s a brilliant whisky.
Note: image stolen from Whisky Rover, who supplied me with a hefty sample. His thoughts here.