“I love classic beauty. It’s an idea of beauty with no standard.”
I expect what Karl Lagerfeld was getting at when he made such a statement, is that classic is timeless with no depreciation or boundaries. We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s why many of you purchase Jura and Glenallachie and that’s cool. No, it really is. Each to their own and an endless diatribe about what’s best. Yet at the end of the time, there’s an elegance and statutory worship of something deemed classical. The prophets of whisky (the consultants, writers, self-proclaimed media personalities and such-like) tell you what’s best. They do have their industry ties and subconscious bias when it comes to many things. After all, there are bills to pay, ladies and gentlemen. And the harsh reality of fewer paying gigs right now. This means a firmer grip and following of the company line than ever before by those with such incomes.
Here, of course, we’re free of such ties. Our only ambition is to provide you with a slice of independent whisky critique every day. Sometimes twice per day if you ask nicely. Few if any, can compete with such a manifesto. However, in saying all of this, we do often have common ground. A whisky that we can all agree upon to a certain degree. Yes, most Jura is pish, but this is not always the case.
Diageo has its Classic Malts and as we’ve shown recently these are a little bashed and depreciated of late. They still serve a purpose, but are they actually classic? Sadly, the majority aren’t nowadays, although there is always an exception to the rule. The Lagavulin 16 remains the pinnacle to many, however ask yourself what about beyond? Our Patreons voted today’s review as their ‘C’ choice for us to follow-up with a review and that means Clynelish.
I always recommend Clynelish 14 to those bored of the commerciality of Speyside, excluding Tormore obviously. Billy of Whisky Exchange fame, actually admitted online to a huge viewing audience that he doesn’t have a single bottle of Tormore in his luxurious London penthouse. Imagine the audacity of such a statement! I always suggest Clynelish to those afraid of heading off the mainland to Islay, Skye and Campbeltown. Ok, Scotland’s former distilling capital isn’t off the mainland as such, but anyone who has tried to navigate the Rest and Be Thankful in recent times will confirm, you might as well be flying internationally. Not that we should really be doing such in these COVID-19 times.
Clynelish has that waxy quality that many are addicted to and it is certainly present. Perhaps not so much in the juvenile independent releases I’ve experienced recently. The distillery has an ability, an umami ability to produce something tasty that unites many.
The Clynelish 14, in essence, is a major hub of whisky. You can depart from here in a variety of directions including back home to think again. My somewhat hazy memory, suggests it has that approachability married with more besides. The X-factor that many beyond Simon have been searching for. There’s a tenacious quality, a rewarding factor as you unlock its secrets and a statement on peat, proving you don’t need it to be a wonderful whisky. Perhaps I’ve snatched a pair of rose-tinted glasses in looking back? Enthusiasts will know that Clynelish (swap the name with Brora for an eternity of musical chairs), produced the peated whisky that is still the benchmark for all the others to aspire to.
Thankfully, you don’t need to pay Brora prices for what this distillery is capable of producing. The Clynelish 14 it seems is available almost everywhere. And it is fairly reliable even with the persistent issue of batch variation. The core; centre; and heart of Clynelish remains intact.
To test this theory and acknowledge the support of our Patreons we’ll sit down to review the whisky as it has been too long. This is bottled at 46% strength and comes in a full-sized bottle or a handy 20cl if you’re embarking on a trip. I asked Rose to join me in offering an opinion on this supposed classic and thankfully she said yes with some added cheek. For the record, we will have 2 different batches of this Diageo staple with my bottle being L9220IWOO000934, so let’s go.
Clynelish 14 year old – Jason’s review
On the nose: waxy soft fruits, soft brown sugar and wood sap. Tobacco leaves, vanilla, a rich honeycomb, spent ginger and cracked black pepper. Adding water brought out orange rind and a gentle smoky essence.
In the mouth: soft, creamy and fruity. Red apples, more caramel, apricot and other stone fruit. Spent black tea leaves, sugar work and a hint of wax. A couple of drops of water unlocks toffee, a chewy texture and lots of oils, buttery in fact with almonds.
A classic? I believe it is. Admittedly yes, a little bashed, worn and variable at times. Thankfully Diageo has resisted the temptation to mess with the expression as we’ve seen them do with the Mortlach 16 year old, which is a more timid and withdrawn affair nowadays.
While we can pick apart a whisky quite easily and we’re all guilty of doing this too much nowadays. Everything comes together here in splendid uniformity. That’s the strength of Clynelish for me: there’s an element for everyone to appreciate and the experience is evocative without being taxing.
These whiskies represent something more than just a dram too many enthusiasts. A timeless quality that even Karl would appreciate and even a classic doesn’t need to score too highly.
Clynelish 14 year old – Rose’s review
Colour: Raw Baltic Amber.
On the nose: Dark brown sugar, and something that reminds me of rum. Grilled peaches and fennel bulb. Rye bread dough. Honey caramelized on grapefruit with a layer of gentle smoke. The sweet versus bittersweet of gooey vanilla bean caramels dusted in bitter dark cacao. An earthy, salty quality and worn leather. Ginger snaps and an old wool sweater with spilt herbal tea dried into it.
In the mouth: More of those dark bitter cacao notes, but this time with the spice of cayenne coming into play. Ginger Assam black tea, with a big squeeze of lemon. The sweetness of natural beeswax, honey and a malty characteristic. That broken in leathery essence comes back to me again along with some smoked woodiness. Finishes like salted butter thrown into vanilla buttercream frosting with candied peppermint. That butteriness dissipates into a musky woolen blanket, absorbing the damp sea air and smoke of smoldering coals.
I was about halfway through these tasting notes when I started to question how I’ve let this whisky slip so far out of view. I know I’d enjoyed it in the past, but I moved on, leaving about two pours waiting to be rediscovered.
I would guess that some may underestimate this whisky because its a standard or classic malt that you can rely on being on most spirit shops shelves? However, in my opinion, it is far from simplistic. So many complex layers on the nose and palate. I also enjoyed how unexpected it was to go from a nice luscious buttery feel, then returning to dry.
This Clynelish 14 can easily be appreciated someone new to scotch, as well as someone that has many years of experience under their belt. I now have a reignited appreciation for this once loved whisky.
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