Clynelish

Review: Cladach Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
57.1%
Aging
First-fill ex-bourbon, refill American oak, refill European oak, Ex-sherry European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Blend of malts from Clynelish, Inchgower, Oban, Talisker, Caol Ila, and Lagavulin

This is a relative rarity in the Diageo Special releases - a blended malt. This one is focused on coastal distilleries, hoping to convey a general maritime character. “Cladach” means shoreline.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nice whisky! The nose starts with toffee, mixed spice, a touch of sulphur, smoke, roasted meat, light tropical notes, washed-up seaweed, vanilla, and a touch of rubber. Slightly floral, too. The palate blooms with smoke, charred chickpeas, a kick of tropical fruit, and a touch of youth that works really well with its untamed presence. The lagavulin in it is just beautifully integrated. It is phenomenal at cask strength - it starts sweet, goes oily and tropical, then ashy, and fruity. The finish has rock pools, vanilla, clove, and cedar. It is very nice.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very Low (based on $312 - though you might get a better deal)


Review: Brora 34 Year Old 1982 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (2017 Special Release) by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

ABV
51.9%
Aging
Ex-Bourbon Barrels; 34 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Brora (Brora, Scotland)

You wonder how much Brora is still left - this is the youngest Brora in some years, distilled the year before the distillery closed. This year, Diageo started plans to re-open the distillery, which will come with much fanfare and likely expensive price tags in the future - but good news, nonetheless. Let's hope the quality matches some of the best Brora years...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Releases, 1982

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Lots of creamy fruit on the nose, and tropical too. Jackfruit, kiwi, mango, toffee, slight woody smoke, soot, apples, gooseberries, blueberries, leather, light earthiness, almonds, lemons, rose petals, and growing waxiness – almost meaty. Immensely complex. Waxiness grows. The palate is much more smoke forward than the nose, with vanilla, butterscotch, limestone, straw, and lemon surrounding it. The tropical fruits still remain central, with spice, smoke, and the sweet vanilla/butterscotch/custard filling in the gaps. The finish is smoky, but bright with lots of fruit – apple, kiwi, white pepper, oak, and spicy tobacco. Dry, woody, and smoky with time. The old notes are terrific.

Not nearly the smoky, fruity Brora I tried last year- but this is still fantastic.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. Coming in at over 2000$ in most places, even the best of whiskies aren’t high value.


Review: Blue Hanger Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 9th Release (Berry Bros. & Rudd) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.6%
Aging
7-23 Years
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Clynelish, Glen Elgin & Bunnahabhain (Scotland)

This is a very well known connoisseurs Scotch. It is a blended malt produced by Berry Bros & Rudd who own Glenrothes but bottle a lot of other sourced malt. This is a yearly blend, varying from year to year - often with raving reviews. This release had less sherry and more peat than previous releases - it is a mix of a 17 y.o. Clynelish, 18 y.o. Glen Elgin, 23 y.o. Bunnahabhain, and 7 y.o. Bunnahabhain.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 9th Release

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

The nose is full of mineral and smoke – brilliant, in fact. And there’s lots behind it – peach, wood, guava – the fruit is rich and succulent. It does smell young – but you can tell that the quality of the spirit is brilliant. Some wax, great earth integration, and oak.

The taste has a lot of smoke, with some fruit backing the show – and the smoke comes in waves, appearing at first before fading to some slightly vegetal and stewed fruit notes before coming back and stealing the show again. I like the interplay. On the end, smoking fall leaves, mineral character – I quite enjoy it and find it very intriguing. A very complex finish, with smoke, apple sauce, and slight acidity which makes you want just a bit more. Roasted malt. Dense peat and smoke on the finish.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). At the top of the category, too.

Value: Average, based on $137 CAD.


Review: Clynelish 20 Year Old 1995 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (A Rare Find; Gleann Mor) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
53.9%
Aging
20 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Clynelish (Brora, Scotland)

Another independent bottling of Clynelish by the independent bottler Gleann Mor.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 11308

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date:2015

Oak, leather, caramel truffles, milk chocolate, lightly waxy – and yet with a good dose of creaminess. Quite brilliant. Sitting above it all, there is some light grape and green mulberry as well. Very rich and elegant.

On the palate, creamy, nutty, chocolate-y, and lightly waxy. Phenomenal. Oak and vanilla weave their way in and out, and the feel of the whisky is terrific. It also has a fair bit of marshy corn, vanilla, and coconut. Finishes with beeswax, mixed nut brittle, caramel, milk chocolate, vanilla, and light tannin. Lightly creamy too. I don’t know the casking of this, but from the colour and taste I would guess a first-fill bourbon cask. Of whiskies that I have tasted this year, this is among the top. The only thing it has going against it is that the tannins are a bit too much (coming from someone who loves tannin!). It’s not unpleasable, but it does throw the balance off a bit, and knocks it from a 92 to a 91. Still, a wow whisky.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $252.


Review: Clynelish 18 Year Old 1996 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Hunter Laing Old & Rare Platinum) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
54.9%
Aging
18 Years; Refill Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Clynelish (Brora, Scotland)

This single cask of Clynelish was aged in a refill sherry hogshead, bottled by independent bottler Hunter Laing.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Light, fruity, and very clean on the nose – with white grape, green mulberries, and light spices – clove and cinnamon. White raisins, and marshy clear water – like a stream flowing through a channel full of moss and algae – it reminds me of the smell of many hills in England and Scotland that I used to climb when I was younger. Nutty – marzipan, peanut brittle – emerging more as it sits. Custard, and dulce de leche are around too.

The palate shows, surprisingly – some smoke, fire roasted chickpeas, green raisin, semi-dried tomatoes, and finishes with tingly spice, tannin, and smoke. I wasn’t expecting the smoke! I don’t even know if dried green mulberries exist, but if they did, this has many elements which I imagine would be similar. Finishes with light oak, green raisin, white pepper, and cloves and cinnamon. Quite the character! It does show how phenomenal the Clynelish distillate is. Great stuff. It is quite amazing how the green raisin holds its ground amidst everything else that is going on.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very Low (based on $385)


Review: Clynelish 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
14 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Clynelish (Brora, Scotland)

This whisky is another one which is bred for blending - in fact, perhaps, the most famous of all of the base components for blended Scotch whisky being a central part of the Johnnie Walker stable. It is quite famous for it's "waxiness" which is caused by a natural buildup of oils in the feints and foreshots receiver (feints and foreshots are collected spirit at the beginning and end of the distillation which are not used for barreling but usually recycled back into the spirit which is being distilled). This buildup is normally cleaned up by distilleries - but not at Clynelish, where it builds their house style.

I really like the stuff from Clynelish, both this bottling, and the independent bottlings that I've tried. Not much is officially released from the distillery, but this standard is terrific. It's a favorite of mine as a single malt, but also as a base for home blending (which is what I do when I get bored of bottles) - it really does work magic in blends.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L4314CM000 0901684

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Applesauce, beeswax, raisins, apple seeds, marmelade, vanilla, oak, even with a bit of a juniper edge, light mineral notes as of the seashore - there not only is lots going on but it is quite well put together. Elderflower, too, is in the mix for a nice floral edge.

Taste: Sweet at first, before some sherry, oak, and malt hit up the mid-palate along with a light heather-honey note,  before dying out slowly with vanilla and dried fruit and a touch of peat. Lightly spicy too in feel and flavour - cinnamon, particularly. Developing, and fairly long in the mouth and ever so slightly salty.

Finish: Raisins, slightly dry oak, pear, elderflower, cinnamon, with a mild spiciness and dryness. There's a slight saccarin note which detracts, but this is slight.

A slightly quirky malt, however, the complexity and length of this whisky is certainly of merit. Complex whiskies are always a delight to me - this is not only delicious, but also quite entertaining. Each of the elements play very well together and are restrained enough to not dominate and hide out all of the complexity.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, nearly high, at $80. If Scotch was the only whisky category, this might be higher against the market.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L6025CM000 00695154

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Similar to above, so abbreviated notes here. Lightly smoky, with candle wax, maple sugar, almonds, apricots, peaches – I just love this nose. It’s not even that the notes themselves are special and unique – they are woven all together with such beautiful bridging flavours – they aren’t disparate but meld together incredibly well.  On the palate, lots of beeswax, natural soap, stewed stone fruits, and spice. The finish is full, with a lightly woody, waxy, and smoky combination and some coconut. Drying too – brilliant.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, nearly high, at $80. If Scotch was the only whisky category, this might be higher against the market.


Review: Brora 35 Year Old 1978 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (2014 Special Release) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
48.6%
Aging
Refill American and European Oak Casks; 35 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Brora (Brora, Scotland)

Yes, here is a legendary Brora - the peated spirit that ran from Clynelish's stills to supply blends until 1983 when the distillery was mothballed. The peated spirit was produced to help with production of blends in light of a drought in Islay which resulted in a shortage of peated whiskies to supply the blenders. It is now one of the most sought after (and expensive) whiskies, and Diageo has tended to release a vatting of Brora as part of their special releases each year.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 1978

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

The nose is smoky, fruity, and dry, with burning leaves, blueberry, light spice, beeswax, almonds, chickpeas, apple, orange, walnut, blueberry, rubber, with a beautiful marine mineral character as well. The palate is incredibly creamy, with lots of smoke, vanilla, and terrific drying smoke and wax character towards the spicy finish. An incredibly deep finish, full of creamy fruit, smoke, and spice. An unbelievable palate – I could keep going on, but do I need to? Should such a whisky be reviewed, or just marveled at? For this, the latter. First rate, classic, elegant, unbelieveable stuff.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. You don’t buy this for value…