Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #23

Clynelish 14yo
Coastal Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv

*Most Under-rated whisky
Vote HERE (before Mar 6, 2009)

The original Clynelish was built in 1819 by the future Duke of Sutherland. He was a right bastard in the history of Scotland and it is said that the distillery was born out of
the Highland Clearances. To this very day people still want his enormous statue on Ben Bhraggie taken down. Instead they will have to settle for being able to climb the Ben and piss and/or spit on it(see image; been there done that).

The Pattison's crash in 1898 hurt all distilleries, and as such a cherished malt for blending, Clynelish was no exception. In 1916 John Walker and Sons took a share in Clynelish and eventually brought it into the DCL empire [Distillers Company Ltd (DCL) was formed in 1877 and would later become a substantial chunk of the company known today as Diageo. For more info see this book].

Clynelish was a silent distillery during another tough time for whisky, the periods between 1931-38 and the war years 1941-45. The o
riginal distillery was abandoned for seven years when in 1967(ish) the company decided to relocate Clynelish slightly up the hill. In 1975, however, the old site was reopened and called Brora Distillery. The company produced a peatier style whisky at Brora to supply its blends with smoke character. It only produced for eight years, but the legacy lives on as Diageo cleverly releases the remaining stocks very slowly and whisky lovers everywhere cherish its nectar.

Clynelish is still producing and is a large part of Johnnie Walker blends. I know many people within and without the industry who would cite Clynelish as a Top 5 tipple, and would have to count myself as one (we even selected a 15yo to put our names to). Nonetheless, lets go into this objectively...


Outdoorsy and fresh, strawberry jam, cooked carrots, some pepper and brown sugar.

Toasted rye bread, caraway seeds, sweet oatiness. Full and well rounded flavours in bigger sips. Lightly minty, perhaps soapy, watercress herbal-ness. Warming, deeply buried peat that is woven so well with the other favours that it is almost overlooked. Several fun turns of flavour in the mouth after swallowing. Hot dog stand and mustardy finish. Mouthwatering.


As good as this is, my memory cannot let me forget the fantastic single cask stuff I have had (never had a 'bad' one), but this is a really great bottling. It is virgin-safe like the Old Pulteney because of its friendly, soft mouth attack, in spite of its high abv%, but packs a lot of character for the experienced whisky drinker as well. Seek out independent bottlings of Clynelish or bottles from the 1980s or earlier if you have the money or opportunity, but in the meantime, spend lonely evenings with this beauty.

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