Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Clynelish from some of the very best vintages

Clynelish is such a distillery that has a few very famous vintages. One could easily get into a passionate discussion over which year from the early seventies are the best. Indeed, 1971, 1972 and 1973 brought forth some stuff that is from stellar proportions. 

I totally adore the 1972 whisky that was bottled in the Rare Malts Selection. Then, the early eighties, also not too shabby. Even in recent times the 2010 vintage seems to be growing and growing in quality. Maybe we should just conclude that Clynelish is almost always of stellar quality, and that it is never a bad thing to fill the glasses with it. 

Today we go back to 1971, 1982 and 1997, in reverse order.

Clynelish 17 years old, 1997 – 2014, bottled at 46 % abv by Signatory Vintage

Makeup: A bottling in the Un-Chillfiltered Collection. Two hogsheads with the numbers 4616 and 4617 vatted together to an output of 763 bottles, of which mine was number 106. Distilled on 18 April 1997 and bottled on 1 October 2014. Natural colour.

General impressions: The 1997 vintage was one of those uber-waxy Clynelish years that both excelled in fruitiness but also had a multilayered complexity. Sticking my nose in the glass, this also reveals a quite heavy wood tone. But then it quickly shifts gears towards yellow, dry fruit and indeed those candles. If those don’t light up, it might well be there is also some paraffin in there to balance things out. There is a distinct maritime quality binding the whole together. One should never forget Clynelish is a coastal malt.

The taste is very zesty but staying away from spiciness. Leaning towards citrus notes, but one of those mushy ones that have been lying around for too long. No sharp or rough edges, the two casks balancing each other out. The finish has this nice bitter note and leaves a fantastic waxy lingering. Textbook Clynelish, for me also textbook accessible 1997.

Conclusion: This bottle went down like a friendly daily dram. This was around 70 euro back in the day, and for that money you had over the top quality. I had read about some sister casks of this one on Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun.com reaching the 90 point mark. This one misses maybe a tad too much oomph, but still I am sad the bottle is empty now!

Score: 87 points

Disclaimer: taken from a self-owned (and now empty) bottle.


Clynelish 1982 – 2022, bottled at 48,9 % abv by Malts of Scotland – Warehouse Diamonds

Makeup: Taken from a bourbon hogshead numbered 22038 by MoS themselves. Only 145 bottles came from the cask but we are talking about a 40 year old whisky here.

General impressions: It needs some time to breathe, but then it opens up. At first a very oily and industrial character, but then the typical waxy note reveals itself. Contrary to many Clynelish, I find a very a-typical menthol freshness in this 1982 Clynelish. It does give a new twist.

Taking a sip makes me realize that this is the most (tropical) fruity of the three presented in this blog. But there is also something delightfully nostalgic about this Clynelish, like it has an old soul. There is such diversity in this expression, ranging from a slight smoky (even peaty) note to a floral impression one would easier associate with a Lowland whisky. Is that flaw or strength, this weird unbalance?

Conclusion: A whisky with many faces. I think it works well, you can discover something new with every sip you take. I did not bother with water. It was too soft to add a drop. This one has quite a story to tell, a bottle you can spend a few years with. Maybe even 40 years, I had to pinch myself to remind me of the fact this whisky is indeed so mature.

Score: 91 points
Disclaimer: sample acquired through membership of a Blind Tasting Bottle Club.

Clynelish 35 years old, 1971 – 2006, bottled at 46,5 % abv by Douglas Laing

Makeup: Taken from what I believe to be a single cask, (still) yielding 246 bottles. Bottled in the Old & Rare – Platinum Collection.

General impressions: This is the überwaxy Clynelish we all have come to love. A very “yellow” whisky with impressions of banana and peaches, but also a dusty side like candles lying in a box waiting to be taken and burned to a knob. The wood comes through in this oldie. Where I said before Clynelish is a coastal malt, this one seems very mellow and balanced out. Still very vibrant after 35 years in the cask, just like the 1982. I am struggling to describe the darker side of this Clynelish. There is wood tasting like milk chocolate, bordering on bitter but not going over the top. The wax on this one is truly exceptional. And the aroma keeps on developing. A league of its own.

Conclusion: An Eulogy to The Last Sample of this Giant. This is an example of a Clynelish that cemented the reputation for being a waxy, extremely honeyed single malt whisky. I revisited this legend a few times in the last few years because I had a generous 10 cl sample. It still leaves me speechless, and now forever because I have no more.

Score: 93 points
Disclaimer: taken from a self-owned sample.

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