Whisky Ladies Scottish Tour – Clynelish 14 year 46%

Next stop on our Scottish regions tour was a whisky from the Highlands

The Highlands is the largest Scottish region, with a wide range of styles and a brilliant array of distilleries. In the East, there is Glendronach, Glenglassaugh, Glen Garioch and Ardmore. Whereas in the West, there is Oban and Ben Nevis. Smack in the Centre is Aberfeldy and Dalwhinnie. Go South to find Glengoyne, Loch Lomond, Deanston and Tullibardine. Whereas in the North, there is Glenmorangie, Dalmore and Clynelish.

Clynelish is considered a ‘coastal‘ whisky and, like many distilleries, has a past… tracing links to the old Brora distillery nearby that was initially closed, then re-opened in 1969 to 1973 to pump out peaty whiskies to cover a shortfall of Islay whiskies due to a drought, further exacerbated by the lack of whisky from Caol Ila while its distillery was being rebuilt. By 1983, production of a peated spirit was halted.

Meanwhile, just adjacent, the new Clynelish distillery had identical stills to its neighbour Brora yet focused on the lighter Clynelish style we know today, predominantly for blending.

Why intertwine the two? Practically the same location, same owner, same source for blends, both kept largely out of the single malt universe. Then in 2003, Diageo launched its classic malts selection and the Clynelish wild cat became available to the world.

Clynelish 14

And what did our Whisky Ladies find?

Clynelish 14 year 46%

  • Nose – Overripe fruit, plum, soft pears, bananas, almost a bit musty, a nutrition bar, nutty honey, chocolate fudge, then more caramel, citrus rinds
  • Palate – What a contrast! Not sweet as the nose suggested but instead hickory smoke, quite satisfying, nice round but hard to pull out anything in particular initially, then dry tobacco, a mulch of organic leaves, earthy
  • Finish – Very sweet, dry, developing longer wet sweet tobacco with a slight curl of spice

For some, they much preferred the nose to the palate. For others it was the reverse. And some were particularly happy to finally have a satisfying finish.

Overall many were pleasantly surprised to find how much they enjoyed the Clynelish which had more substance than initially expected. Still very much in the lighter vein it isn’t a complete lightweight to be immediately dismissed.

Here’s what the folks over at Clynelish have to say:

The 14 year old Clynelish single malt offers sweet floral fragrances and maritime flavours with a light, dry finish – a classic case of a coastal malt with a subtle island character.

And from the bottle, the following tasting notes:

  • Nose – The nose starts with light candle wax, with some sugar and a faint floral fragrance. Adding a little water brings this into focus, the candle wax is now richly scented as if , when strolling near the beach, you have come across sun-dried flowers among the sand dunes. 
  • Palate/Finish – On the spicy palate there’s a signature oily mustard-cress crispness, which is underscored by some maritime saltiness in the satisfying drying finish. 

Which garnered responses like:

“Not just any old flower but specifically sun-dried flowers… on the beach.. nestled amongst the sand dunes… “

“Who would put candlewax in their mouth?!”

To say we were amused is putting it mildly…

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai’s Scottish Regional Tour continues with:

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Highland wildcat Clynelish 14 year 46%

After an Irish racehorse – Tyrconnell – our palates turned to the coastal highlands with the Clynelish wild cat.

As a tasting group, this was our first foray to the Clynelish distillery, near Brora, Sutherland in the Highlands. Much relied upon for blends – particularly Johnnie Walker Gold – the distillery was bought by United Distillers (aka now part of Diageo) in the mid 80s.

The official bottling of the Clynelish 14 year was only introduced in 2003 and marketed as part of Diego’s Classic Malt Selection.

And the wild cat mark? It was inspired by the Sutherland family coat of arms.

We sampled it blind before revealing the whisky.

Clynelish 14

Clynelish 14 year 46%
  • Nose – Sweet yet stronger than the Tyrconnell, bright, perfume, some sweet citrus, micro greens, tickle of pepper, orchids?
  • Taste – Delicate and sits nicely, sweet spice, subtle orange, pronounced “very nice”, as it opens, more sweet spice, a little tumeric, both capsicum and cayenne pepper
  • Finish – Sweet spice, surprisingly long
  • With water – REALLY kicks up the spice – a mini explosion, sizzler
  • Speculation – Likely from the Highlands with the sweet, light spice without any heavy peat notes
  • Overall – Easy drink when you want.
After the unveiling, we were surprised with the distiller notes on the bottle as we completely missed the smoke, though would certainly agree about the fruit!

Here’s what the Clynelish folks say:

  • Offers sweet floral fragrances and maritime flavours with a light, dry finish.

And what others say:

My final verdict? I passed over purchasing the Clynelish when trying different whiskies as was looking for a bit more substance for an upcoming tasting session. However I appreciated the opportunity to revisit it properly. Of the trio we sampled in January, this was my favourite – neat.

PS I got bragging rights for guessing the distillery, though had an advantage having briefly ‘met’ a Clynelish before!

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On a lighter note… Tyrconnell, Clynelish, Speyburn

Most whisky aficionados have a ‘preferred’ profile. It could be bold peaty or sweet sherry or a craving for complexity where nothing else will do!

One of our original malt group members is partial to lighter more delicate whiskies. He seeks a little nuance and elegance in his dram.

So when it came time to host our 1st tasting session for 2016, he selected whiskies that he hoped would achieve such an approach.

2016-01-27 Oak League

Our evening had a decidedly light sprightly feel with:

However don’t be fooled! Just when pegged into a particular ‘type’, purely for contrast, our host shared that when he’s had a hard day at work, only something a bit rougher, tougher and robust will do.

That’s when a Wasmund’s 12 month 48% was pulled out! Because we all need a little ‘bad boy’ to spice things up once and a awhile.

Me? I’m terribly mood dependant. Some could say I can’t make up my mind, but it is simply that I enjoy the range of profiles.

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