Clynelish Highland Whisky

Rupert Mackintosh samples a Whisky from the Highlands of Scotland, perfect after a days Deer Stalking on the hill. 

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So far we have looked at a couple of the classic, iconic whiskies coming out of Scotland at the moment. The top tier, big sellers, the triple AAA heavy hitters. Today I thought we would look at a distillery that, while without the massive media hype of the likes of Glenfiddich and Lagavulin, can certainly hold its own in the taste and production values stakes. Introducing, Clynelish.

Clynelish sees us jump from the remote rocky outland of Islay to the Highlands themselves. So for those who are slightly geographically challenged in terms of Scottish topography, it’s pretty far up at the top. You are not a million miles from the infamous John o’Groats territory here, the top most end of the British mainland. So why fester on this point? Well, there is a lot to be said for the impact of the terrain, the minerals, the water and of course the location, on what actually happens to the dram while it’s resting in the bottle.

In fact, Clynelish is essentially a replacement for an age-old malt producer in the same vicinity named Brora. Trivia buffs become very excited on learning that some, but not all, Clynelish malts are actually laid to rest and mature in the same location of the old Brora stock – and that could have a subtle impact on the flavouring, more reminiscent of the old taste profile. The ghost of a former whisky distillery lives on?

Clynelish2250If this is all getting a bit too trainspotter for you, never fear. Clynelish itself is an interesting dram on the pallet also. It falls in to a category that I consider as ‘one dimensional’. Now this is not a bad thing – far from it – some of the great malts are known for doing one thing, and doing it well. Laphroaig is an excellent example when it comes to peat, or the Singleton of Dufftown for a smooth, light dram. They lack the deep, dark complexity of a Lagavulin.

So what is it that Clynelish excels at, what is its one dimensional facet? Spice!

Starting off with an aroma of salty liquorish and olive oil, which creeps in to a buttery sweet smell when opened up with a little water, if left to sit in the glass for a while the first touches of spice reach you. Peppery and fiery, this is one of those malts that makes you think “oooooh, interesting!” with anticipation.

On the pallet, you are overwhelmed by spices and a coastal sea breeze. The spicy twang is distinctive, but not overpowering. I enjoy some spicy foods, but am probably a little less tolerant of their use in cooking than most people, but really love this malt. It throws up images of the golden days of sail, the East India Company, the docks and the clippers, backed up again by that brilliant Scottish coastline undertone. All this is powerful, raw and fairly unapologetic, this malt does one thing but it really does it well.

Interestingly, this distiller provides a lot of the base malt for Johnny Walker. You never would have guessed given the flavour profile difference.

Clynelish is bottled as a 14 year old principally, and doesn’t have a huge selection without venturing in to some of the bespoke bottlings from other companies. That said, you shouldn’t let this slip past you, as the price is accessible enough for it to be a day to day drink, and it really stands out while some other malts will fade in to the background. 

(If you'd like to order a bottle of Clynelish or other Whisky then simply click through to 'The Whisky Exchange' at the top of this page to place your order). 

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