If there were ever a whisky that needed a thunderous introduction, complete with spectacular production values and explosive pyrotechnics, then this Game of Thrones Clynelish is a strong contender for the title.
Towards the end of last year in the online realm, there seemed to be this incredible rush and desire, to cover all of these themed releases from the adored television series. The stampede paled into insignificance compared to the masses trying to complete the set simply to resell it on the secondary market. A quick search over at Scotch Whisky Auctions confirms 1152 lots from the series at the time of writing in August.
The complete set of eight bottles is set to become a lasting testimony to greed, with 38 complete sets failing to meet their reserve. I bet Jess – former Queen of Bottles – is sick and tired of this series! The fever even spread to an English distillery, which shamefully tried to flog the set for a four-figure sum. Everyone wanted in on the action to make a few quid at the cost of someone else.
A pattern of dwindling returns is noticeable, with prices slipping below £300 after the extravagant highs of £2000 for one particular lot. I really hope those that paid £600+ enjoyed their purchase, which has dropped in value more so than sterling, come Brexit. It also shows the benefit of not rushing to bid as a buyer. These are not once in a lifetime bottles that won’t appear online again. This is a staple, an infestation and a cornerstone of any auction for the foreseeable future. Patience is a vital commodity that is becoming increasingly scarce in whisky; this, it seems, also applies to whisky auctions.
The link-up was a masterstroke from Diageo and will have cost them a pretty penny. However, it has enabled them to showcase several of their distilleries through what is fairly tepid and average juice. Some may claim a gateway for the uneducated into whisky, but this seems unlikely based on the inept examples I’ve experienced so far. An opportunity lost in the pursuit of the bottom line and pleasing investors. This is the modern way of whisky today, an environment that, as a consumer, makes you stop and question what you’re purchasing and why. This partially explains why MALT has yet to cover any of the range until today, you lucky people, proving yet again we do things on our own terms. I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a bottle! Instead, I preferred a healthy sample via a whisky bar to fully explore.
Then, there is Clynelish, a stylish whisky that we don’t see too many new releases around nowadays. A shame, as it remains one of the classiest producers within the Diageo stable of distilleries. Our expectations are not high, but this is Clynelish. Even the most inept and heavy-handed blender cannot mess up the quality of this distillate, unless Diageo have cut back on cask quality. Time, then, to go beyond the wall to do battle with the auction phenomenon.
This House Tyrell release is bottled at 51.8% and represents an unstated limited edition. In Diageo terms, this means producing as many units as possible within a specific time frame. There are no comments about natural colour or non-chill filtration, so both of these will be present. It is a No Age Statement release, which doesn’t come as a surprise. In addition, this was originally available circa £50 before selling out to flippers initially. Nowadays you can expect to pay upwards of £70 for a bit of Throne action.
Clynelish Reserve House Tyrell – review
On the nose: more caramel, some vanilla and oranges. White pepper hints at a youthful nature, carrot peelings and rubbed brass bring sweetness and an artificial suggestion. This is a little dull for Clynelish so far. A touch of smoke, apples, soggy cardboard, chilli flakes, honeysuckle and pineapple cubes.
In the mouth: the palate delivers the first hint of Clynelish but also a youthful bite of rawness. A little waxy apple and vanilla caramel. It lacks the elegance of the distillery, there’s an echo of what might have been. Green mangoes, cinnamon, a trace of waxiness and salt. A clammy, constrained nature. Peppery and bitter on the finish.
You can smell and taste that this comes out of the Diageo blending labs. It has Flora and Fauna feel to it. The taint. Engineered. It’s drinkable, but frankly, I had higher expectations.
You can argue this was developed (rather than distilled) for another market; another demographic. To be swapped, bought and sold on an endless merry go round. This isn’t a whisky to be opened, explored and debated.
A marketing-led concept that leaves us with a whisky that sits firmly in the realm of average. Verging on a 4 for the higher retail price. If this is what Diageo thinks of Clynelish today, then I don’t want to be onboard when the ship goes down.
Lead image from the Whisky Exchange.