This is a tricky article to write. I know there is a significant collection of unpublished of Malt articles ahead and therefore it is difficult to know exactly when it will drop and what status the global pandemic will be at, or how it will be affecting people’s psyche. So, let’s place this writing time; it is mid-April.
We’ve all experienced uniquely personal changes due to the impending pandemic, some have panic-bought all the toilet paper. Others have, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, volunteering themselves; increasing their personal exposure to help their local community. Some have had most outrageous financial hardships whilst others are plain sailing from home with limited additional impact. When reading this article about opportunity, please take it with the empathy of knowing not everyone will have such an opportunity or will even feel comfortable enjoying life’s luxury of whisky at the moment.
For me, working from home during lockdown, the most significant change has been the pace of life. Gaining 3 hours a day by not commuting. Scheduling my working day around two children who are not at nursery. Planning meals and the infrequent shops more carefully. It has also created a less formal more relaxed work environment where it is no longer the height of embarrassment for a 3 year old to gate-crash your video call. Where your dogs are positively encouraged to join Zoom meetings. At this time I certainly feel privileged and thankful we all remain healthy.
What then of this opportunity and a change of pace? Well, certainly it’s easier to have a dram knowing that you are absolutely not going anywhere. Some will, therefore, have seen stocks of the ‘everyday’ drinking whisky depleting worryingly rapidly. #bottlekill aplenty on social media. Others will have re-evaluated the bottles being kept ‘for something special’ and decided now is as good a time as any.
With the closure of the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s store and furlough of the team my go-to whisky suppliers required a rethink. I hope all the Cadenhead’s team are doing OK? I trawled the Master of Malt site and came across the Game of Thrones Clynelish heavily discounted to half of what Jason paid for it when he reviewed it in 2019. I had recently lucked-out on a bottle of Thompson Bros bottled Clynelish earlier in the year that I was saving ‘for something special’ and decided Master of Malt’s Drinks by the Dram might be a great way of really getting to know the distillery. The selection of drams goes right back before 2015 and can be quite surprising because full bottles then were half of today’s prices!
Clynelish Reserve Game of Thrones – review
Colour: Sauternes (I’m using Charles Maclean’s Whiskypedia colour chart for this review as a shortcut)
On the nose: Young, spirit-led, sponge cake, icing sugar, big peach, unripe pear, marzipan and apple blossom honey.
In the mouth: peach, caramel, peat, wood, peppery heat, caramelised white chocolate, raw cake mix.
Comments: young, but with some Clynelish character, a shallow of Clynelish really.
Clynelish 12 year old Fascadale Batch 6 Adelphi – review
On the nose: estery, tinned pineapple, sweet smoke, old cupboards, damp cardboard, pear syrup, opening up to reveal some Clynelish funk.
In the mouth: thin feel, light, winey, weak caramel, punchy peat, very little interesting going on.
Comments: reminded me of Logan Deluxe blended whisky from the 1980s but still head and shoulders above the Game of Thrones release.
Clynelish 18 year old 1995 Ibisco Decanter Signatory – review
On the nose: funky sulphur, fruity and peaty, baked pasty, cinnamon apple strudel, toasted oats.
In the mouth: an old motorbike workshop, specifically the one-off Old Dalkeith Road in Edinburgh where I did a week’s work experience in 1998. Also funk, a little sulphur, really long mid-palate, with tobacco and a salty drying finish.
Comments: the link between smell, taste and memory is wild. The link between Clynelish and Ben Nevis is clear with this dram. I would have loved to taste this at cask strength.
Clynelish 16 year old 1997 Distillers Art Langside – review
Colour: white burgundy.
On the nose: honey, floral, vanilla, prosecco, lemon sherbet, tannins and apple sauce.
In the mouth: gently funky, sweet honey, honeycomb, some peat after vanilla and allspice poached pears.
Comments: a very gentle and shy Clynelish.
Clynelish 19 year old 1996 Unchillfiltered Signatory – review
On the nose: funk, vegetative, freshly shredded cabbage, vanilla, honey, honeycomb
In the mouth: smooth gentle sweetness carrying funk, some peat, waxiness, fresh tobacco and a spicy finish from the wood.
Comments: finally some decent wax that Clynelish is known for. Quite a tongue sucker.
Clynelish 20 year old 1996 (cask 8787) Unchillfiltered Signatory – review
On the nose: flat nothing really prominent, old paint, Airfix superglue, water-based drilling mud (too niche?), some nuttiness, a distant fetid pond.
In the mouth: is this whisky, something like a random new-world attempt at whisky; Limeburners?, some hit of Clynelish but damp cardboard is prominent.
Comments: This is grim, how this saw the light of day, especially as a single cask is astonishing.
Clynelish 20 year old 1996 (cask 11381) Unchillfiltered Signatory – review
Colour: Chenin Blanc.
On the nose: gentle funk, petrichor, honey cake.
In the mouth: gentle well-balanced reflections of the nose with orange blossom caramel.
Comments: not masses going on, not much waxiness, quite tame but tasty.
Clynelish 20 year old 1995 Ibisco Decanter Signatory – review
On the nose: sulphur, funky, peat and coal, steam engines, hot exhausts and sawdust.
In the mouth: Sweet stewed fruits, stone fruits, oily and waxy, peat, tobacco, freshening mid-palate getting a bit soapy and greasy on the finish.
Comments: complex, actually a delight, a tongue sucker, almost 8 but…
Clynelish 17 year old 1997 Old Malt Cask – review
On the nose: initially quite tight, orange leaves, wax, salt chalk and mineral smoke.
In the mouth: smooth caramel, balanced funk, charred orange, wax, citrus balancing wood spice.
Comments: no hit of the ABV, very well balanced, really quality.
Thompson Bros. Highland Single Malt 2000 – review
On the nose: bold, acrid, fermented fruit and vegetables, PVA glue, salt minerals, a stony beach, Mossmoran Flare?
In the mouth: Really funk but breaking into a lovely toasty warmth of coal and fruit with wax and pollen notes. Cadbury Crunchy & Cadbury Fruit and Nut, creamy and waxy to finish.
Comments: It’s such a whisky nerd cliché to say “not for beginners” about a whisky but this dram really does require some warm-up stretches and a limber up. It’s serious. It has a wild cat on the front of the bottle but perhaps it should have been a Lion! A 9 because, rumour has it, Clynelish can get even more interesting than this.
I wonder if this mixed bag is reminiscent of all distilleries and the nature of small batch, single cask offerings? Or does Clynelish, in particular, have a wider range of flavour due to inconsistencies in production?
There is a commission link within this article but as you can see, such things don’t affect our judgement.