Whisky Live 2018 La Maison du Whisky Exclusives – Clynelish + Glenburgie

At Whisky Live Singapore 2018 there were many La Maison du Whisky exclusive bottles…. No surprise given who organized the event!

I tried the Clynelish and Glenburgie side-by-side in the VIP room…

The Glenburgie was selected by Florian Were for the 50th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky which was started on 20 rue d’Anjou, part of their Whisky Chronicles series.

Glenburgie (1995/2018) Cask #6542 55.6% (LMdW 20 rue d’Anjou) Limited 221 Bottles

  • Nose – Light and bright, some lovely fruits – particularly peaches and apples
  • Palate – Warm and comforting, tropical fruits and a hint of leafy tobacco
  • Finish – Beautiful and long with a lovely spice and hint of cocoa

Even though I only had a wee nip, it was utterly delightful and certainly a style I appreciate. I would have loved an opportunity to come back for more of this…

Clynelish (1997/2017) Cask #6922 55.8% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Lovely light crisp fruits like apples and pears, nicely fresh
  • Palate – The aromas follow through on the palate, dripping with honey and fruits
  • Finish – A bit of spice, more than expected given how initially delicate and light it was on the palate

Again, easy and accessible with enough character to make you pay attention. Incredibly balanced and deceptive as didn’t come across as cask strength.

What an enjoyable pair… both were simply unique bottles to sample and not available for purchase. Clocking in around 23 and 20 year for single casks at cask strength, this was clearly a case of trying  “once” not more…. however if you do come across either and enjoy lighter more nuanced styles, take advantage of the opportunity!

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East to West – Clynelish 15 year 54% (Gordon + MacPhail)

Our journey from East to West finished in the ‘motherland’ of malt – Scotland.

However as we were sampling blind, we had no clue! We were still savouring the remarkable Puni Alba and remarking on how impressed we were with the Paul John Bold, when our host brought out a 4th whisky. Naughty man… we normally try to stick to three but… couldn’t resist!

Clynelish 15 year (2001/2016) 54% (G&MP)

Here is what we found:

  • clynelish-2001Nose – So rich! Bursting with sherry berry sweetness – such welcome aromas. Soaked rum and raisins, Christmas cake, promises body and age, slightly musty hints, more plum pudding, orange zest…
  • Palate – 1st sip? Puzzlement… while clearly high in alcohol strength, it had a very light body, bitter green wood, spicy, almost too dry, lots of HOT peppers that were a contrast with the clear sherry nose. As it opened up more, revealed chocolate and a hint of coffee beans
  • Finish – Hot chilli – the red ‘mirchi’ type
  • Water – A few drops brought out bitter gourd and the sherry sweetness became slightly bitter. Then it settled down and with a more generous dollop became a bit more balanced between the different elements

After tremendous promise on the nose, we were challenged by the palate. In part this may have been shifting from standard whisky strengths to cask strength and the sherry experimentation.The hot pepper and bitterness was such a contrast to the initial aroma which teased us into thinking we were in for a full rich traditional sherry dram.

As speculation commenced, there was a sense an effort to move in the direction of GlenDronach or Benromach yet operating with different variables – be it the new make spirit or casks.

And the reveal… Clynelish? Never would have guessed.

What a different kind of Clynelish – clearly no “micro-greens, perfume, delicate sweet spice” or “sun-dried flowers among the sand dunes.”

Which just goes to show the power of different cask maturation on a whisky – in this case Gordon & MacPhail brought together two sherry refill casks – No 307849 & 307850.

Here is what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say about this Clynelish:

WITHOUT WATER

  • Aroma – Rich Sherry aromas combine with green apple, kiwi, and orange followed by charred oak and subtle clove notes.
  • Taste – Sweet and spicy on the tongue with orange peel, green apple, and ripe banana flavours complemented by a chocolate praline edge.

WITH WATER

  • Aroma – Soft vanilla notes mingle with water melon, plum, and cherry aromas. Which combine with toasted malt and cocoa powder notes.
  • Taste – Creamy and sweet with raspberry, banana, and orange flavours enhanced by charred oak and delicate peppermint influence.

For us, sherry is always a fine finish to an evening and while this one puzzled us a bit, it brought to a close a most satisfactory evening from East to West.

Other whiskies sampled in our East to West evening included:

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East to West – Hakushu, PJ Bold, Puni Alba + Clynelish

I love the forethought and creativity that goes into some of our whisky tasting sessions…

Our January 2017 host’s theme was a journey from East to West… following a geographic progression from Japan to India to Italy and finally Scotland.

hakushu-paul-john-puni-clynelish

It was a fabulously curated collection that shifted in styles and threw in surprises too! Each was sampled completely blind before the reveal.

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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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Whisky Ladies explore Scottish regions

The whisky map of Scotland tends to be divided into ‘regions’.

Traditionally there were four regions: Highlands, Lowlands, Islay and Campbeltown. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) then added a 5th region of Speyside – given its prodigious production this seems more than merited!

You may also often hear of an ‘Islands’ sub-region encompassing island distilleries excluding Islay…. Whereas the SWA considers these to be part of the Highlands.

Confused yet?

Glenkinchie, Clynelish, Jura, Cardhu, Ardbeg

When our Whisky Ladies decided to go on a Scottish whisky regional tour, we had to skip Campbeltown as weren’t able to source whiskies from Glen Scotia, Glengyle, and Springbank, however we did our able best to appropriately cover the other regions… including that sneaky little not quite sure if it could be considered a region… Islands!

Whisky Ladies Regional Tour sampled:

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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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