“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.

A full-sized bottle of this will set you back £44.95 via Master of Malt, the Whisky Exchange demand £46.75, while Amazon will demand £41.97 but other fine retailers will stock this.

Clynelish 14 year old – Jason’s review

Colour: caramel.

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.

Conclusions

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.

Score: 7/10

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.

Conclusions

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.

Score: 7/10

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CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    Billy says:

    My lack of Tormore is a ridiculous oversight, and one that I will correct after an appropriate period of hair-shirt-wearing, back-wth-reed-beating penance. My Clynelish stocks will have to do me until then…

  2. Avatar
    Greg B. says:

    My only problem with Clynelish is that every time I shell out to purchase a bottle (at a ridiculous $100 here!) it disappears far too quickly because I love how it tastes. It is the only Diageo malt I will allow myself to purchase.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Greg

      That’s pricey but at least you’re enjoying it. Yeah, it’s funny, I was just talking to Adam about the current Diageo Special Releases and how they’ve become a non-event with finishes being seen more nowadays. Yet you can depend on the Clynelish 14 without any fuss.

      Cheers, Jason,

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Daniel

      I’m of the same opinion. I know Alex reviewed the 10 on the back of a trio of Skye inspired whiskies and wasn’t that taken with it. So, I’ll need to return and check out a latest release.

      Cheers, Jason.

  3. Avatar
    Apple W says:

    I bought a bottle of this recently, and I thought it was good until I discovered an IB from James MacArthur at a local shop (which seems to have been lingering on the shelf for a while: 12YO 1997/2010). In comparison, the OB seems like a sculpture that someone has attacked with a piece of coarse sandpaper and coated in varnish so that all the definition has been obscured. Which I attribute to the chill filtration and e150a. The OB almost tastes sweetened to me. Not terrible or anything, but rather generic.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Apple

      Good find, the indies for Clynelish are a valuable resource. Not so good in recent times unless you’re able to pick up the mid-90s, which is being recognised as a great period for Clynelish. Problem being, everyone wants them and prices are now nearing £300.

      Cheers, Jason.

      1. Avatar
        Apple W says:

        Hi Jason,
        Thanks for the tip on the IB bottlings of Clynelish. I have kept thinking I should go back and buy another bottle of the MacArthur, but with your info I will probably head there tomorrow! It was about £65.
        Cheers,
        John (but not that John)

  4. Avatar
    Welsh Toro says:

    I’ve always like the Clynelish 14 and agree with the thrust of the article. Unfortunately though my last bottle (a couple of years ago) was decidedly flat, really meh. I made this comment on a live stream and was surprised by how many people were of the same opinion but had never expressed it in case people thought there was something wrong with them. The main problem was how little body it had, almost like a 40% instead of a 46%. I had problem with Talisker 10 a few years ago too and that’s back at its best now so I’m hoping the same is true of the Clynelish. Cheers Jason. WT

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Thanks, WT, sorry for the delay. There have been some batch variations and hearing bad things about the Talisker 10, again. We need some reliable options right now!

  5. Avatar
    William says:

    Ran into the Clynelish 14YO by incident some years ago and it has been on stock in my whisky cabinet since then. One of my favorites. It seems that we have good prices for it over here in the Netherlands (can be found below 40€ regular price at some larger whisky webshops).

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi William

      That’s a good price for over there I’m sure. Always a solid staple to have on hand in the house. I could do with a bottle right now!

      Cheers, Jason.

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