Clynelish Distillers Edition 2005 – 2020

I recently stumbled past another a birthday.

To celebrate the occasion my wife and I headed further north here in the Scottish Highlands to visit the wee town of Dornoch and stay at the Dornoch Castle Hotel. The Hotel is owned and operated by the same family who have the Thompson Bros independent bottling company, and also Dornoch distillery. If you’re unfamiliar with their operation, it’s worth checking them out.

The hotel bar is pretty much a whisky-only zone; there are a couple of local beers on tap. With bottles wall to wall and floor to ceiling, it’s a great place to sample some drams that would otherwise be outside of your (bottle buying) budget, or to treat yourself to something that has long since been out of production. With outstanding food and accommodation, it’s well worth a visit for any whisky geek spending time in the Scottish Highlands.

On our first night I enjoyed several Springbanks, a lovely Talisker Distillers Edition, and had a wee flavour trip over to Orkney with a tasty Scapa. Amy enjoyed several gins, and was really taken by Dornoch Distillery’s own gin, enjoying several glasses paired with Fever Tree tonic. The next morning we decided (well, I did, but Amy didn’t argue) to drive the short distance to Brora, around 15 miles, and pay a wee visit to Clynelish Distillery.

Clynelish is, in its current form, a relatively new distillery. Opening in 1967 next door to the original distillery, they are in fact so close you can pick up a stone at one and throw and hit the wall of the other. The original distillery opened in 1819 and closed its doors in 1983; it recently reopened after a major refurbishment and is known as Brora distillery.

Brora/Clynelish have long been associated with Johnnie Walker, with much of the spirit produced going into the popular blends. In fact, Clynelish if one of the four “homes” of Johnnie Walker, with the others being Cardhu, Glenkinchie, and Caol Ila. If you are ever lucky enough to visit any of the four, you will find a statue of the Johnnie Walker “striding man” prominently located outside and resplendent in a different colour at each. The Clynelish version is a lovely golden yellow.

Inside the visitors’ centre I perused the several versions of the local dram, alongside the parent company’s whiskies from their other distilleries. I’m a creature of habit and was leaning in the direction of a simple purchase of a new bottle of an old favourite: the Clynelish 14 year old. But something caught my attention and I inspected a bottle with a slightly differently coloured label.

The shout came from across the room: “Do you want to give that a wee try?” Well, I’m a Scotsman; I breathe heavy all day because the air is free, I’m never one to turn down a dram. A decent pour and I was hooked. Several minutes later and £65 (around $84 USD) less in my bank account I was a smiley fellow. Amy and I popped upstairs to the bar; I enjoyed a couple of drams of the 14 year old whilst Amy sipped a coffee, then it was time to head back to the hotel, grab some lunch, and select our drams for a wee seat at the fire side.

The Distillers Edition is released randomly as a limited edition, generally with an age around 15 years. The distillation and bottling years are printed on the packaging; the version I picked up was distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2020, released at 47% ABV, and finished in Oloroso Seco Sherry casks.

Clynelish Distillers Edition (2005-2020) – Review

Colour: Mahogany brown.

On the nose: The initial impact was one of earthy spicy fruit with perhaps nutmeg. In fact, as it started to open it was more of this plus glacé cherries. There’s a big handful of dried fruit such as sultanas and raisins, some citrus peel, and all this wonderful fruit has been soaked in this lovely warm smooth sherry, perhaps bringing with it a nutty influence… yup, it’s the Christmas cake hit again!

In the mouth: The taste is more than just a Christmas cake. There is that recognisable salinity that can be found in Clynelish; the influence from the nearby coast cannot hide. There is a ginger hint alongside a creamy milk chocolate; the fruit is still there, and the citrus has now pushed on to be a tangy marmalade… on toast! Medium finish, perhaps stretching to being considered long, warm and citrusy.


A cracking fine dram but, like many drams that carry that title of “limited edition,” it’s subject to the version you pick up. I can only really comment of this 2005-2020 expression, but I can’t lie: I loved this dram. Again, with that title it means that it’s not going to be around forever; should O replace the bottle? Yes, I would love to, but realistically I probably won’t. I may look to pick up another version of it in the near future. Clynelish is a distillery that is pretty much loved by all those that sample its spirit, and these Distillers Editions very much add to the range.

Score: 7/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. John says:

    Hi Garry, I’m surprised that Dornoch Castle’s hotel bar is whisky-only. I would have expected some bottle of rum bottled by the Thompson Bros as well.

    1. Garry says:

      Hi John, it’s possible, In my “child in a candy store” excitement perhaps I didn’t take it all in, but I never caught sight of any…. But I’ll look next time

      1. John says:

        Gotcha. That makes me more hopeful that I’ll be able to try some rum bottled by the Thompson Bros when I visit the hotel.

  2. Richard says:

    I’ve always felt that the DE is not Clynelish enough for Clynelish. It doesn’t have much of the waxiness, fairly dry. Clynelish out of a boubon cask, you can’t go far wrong. The 14 has a nice balance and elegance to it too.
    This Distillers Edition just seems flawed to me. Too much of a furniture polish and walnut note with a thin, dry and unappealing mouthfeel.

    1. John says:

      Richard, I can’t speak for Garry, but this is an example of why I prefer spirits just aged in ex-bourbon casks. Ex-wine casks, at times, will end up covering the distinguishing aspects of the whisky.

      1. Garry says:

        Richard, John in all honesty I agree that it kinda hides from the essence of the recognised Clynelish flavour profile that so many whisky drinkers love, I for one live the 14 and it’s a constant on my shelf (I finished my bottle last night so will put k up another in the next few days), but that said I find the DE (I like your abbreviation) a very enjoyable dram… but I’m someone who does like the exploration of different maturations, I enjoy a glass of wine and enjoy looking at how it can affect and influence whisky (both positively and negatively)

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