It seems there are four old Clynelish kicking around my tasting cupboard. What a shame. This distillery evidently needs no introduction or blether from me so we’ll just dive right in if you don’t mind.
Clynelish 14yo. OB. Flora & Fauna. Rotation mid-late 1990s. 43%. 70cl.
This bottle is actually the reason this tasting came about. It all started when a certain pair of whisky quaffers by the names of Dennis and Tobias exclaimed this to be the ‘best Clynelish you can buy’ or something like that on facetube. I swiftly disagreed and the result was they sent me a sample. With this in mind I’d like to publicly denounce all old official Laphroaigs as dusty fruit free piss water, any pre-war malts as brittle and deeply flawed and early 70s Broras and Longrows as dull and unimaginatively peated blend fodder. Just send the samples to the usual address guys…
Nose: Uber typical at first, lots of wax, hessian, shoe polish, chamomile, lilies, pollen and green fruit. It seems to combine a perfect mix of older style, early 70s era Clynelish with some of the modern day 14yo traits. Notes of old Riesling, shoe polish, beeswax, dusty mineral notes, white flowers, fresh chives, a little green tomato chutney and straw. This is really beautiful, I’m starting to feel less confident about blowing this one out of the water with the older ones. A really beautiful old style sweetness that combines elements of natural vanilla and honeycomb is balanced by some fantastically taught and drying coastal notes. Hints of sandalwood, seashore and lemon zest.
Palate: Hmmm, a little dusty on delivery, was this bottle open a long time I wonder? Improves with a few further sips and really starts to bloom with lots of fresh bread, raw sea salt, green tea, more chamomile, wood spice, touches of peat and tar with a really mouthwatering mineral sensation. Still perfectly dry with just twitches of sweetness about it now. Quite savoury and salty, like black olives on pastry. More grass, green fruit, pebbles, tinned peaches, all kinds of oils, eucalyptus sweets and cream soda.
Finish: Long, lively, warming and super fresh. The coastal aspects go into overdrive and you get this big zingy, salty, mouthwatering mineral sensation. The honey flavours come back a bit as it fades. Lovely.
Comments: Well I had thought this one would be easily defeated by the others that are to follow but now I’m not so sure. Surprisingly close to the early 70s style in many ways. Probably from those great batches distilled in the early 80s. A big thankyou to Dennis and Tobias for this one.
Speaking of which…
Clynelish 28yo. Douglas Laing OMC. 1982-2011. 238 Bottles. Refill Hogshead. 50%. 70cl.
Colour: Straw Gold
Nose: It’s quite surprising how close this is initially to the F&F bottling. Only a slightly more intense resinous quality belies its greater age. It combines those beautiful qualities of tinned tropical fruits, hessain, huge waxiness, drying coastal notes and white stone fruits that make this such a world class distillate. Further notes of damp straw, coal, creosote, motor oil, vanilla cream, black pepper and celery soup. This one is big bold and intense, it doesn’t quite share the same complexity as the F&F but it compensates with a wonderfully direct intensity of character. Goes on with notes of mint, seaweed, dried herbs and more huge seashore aromas.
Palate: Softer than expected but still a barrel of wax and oil topped up with seawater. This one becomes massively salty after a few moments, a dens saltiness, like chewing whole sea salt crystals, with lemon juice, acid drops, grass, and tobacco leaf in the background. Quite astonishingly coastal and intense this one, smoked salmon, black pepper, metallic notes, chocolate limes, chopped parsley and buttered toast. Great stuff, although you might not want to drink this if you have weak kidneys, the salt might finish you off. Good if you have a sodium deficiency though…
Finish: Bready, salty, savoury, floral, super coastal and long.
Comments: Great stuff, super classical old style Clynelish, is has everything in spades, except for salt, it has that in shovels. You need to like dry, coastal, hyper fresh and salty whiskies to enjoy this one I think. I love it.
Clynelish 1972-2010 38yo. The Whisky Agency. 138 bottles. Refill sherry hogshead. 45.8%. 70cl.
Nose: A big explosion of lush green and tropical fruits with all kinds, honey, coastal notes, oils, waxy qualities and background cereal touches. Just gorgeous and unmistakeably early 70s Clynelish. The nose is incredibly fresh for 38 years and that balance of intense fruit and regulating coastal notes is just stunning, there is some oak in the mix but it is perfectly subdued, just soft wafts of dark chocolate and stewed fruits betray the sherry. It also reveals menthol, pipe tobacco, touches of rancio, lemon green tea and muesli. Orange liqueur, dates, bitters, caraway seeds and cornflour.
Palate: On the palate the wood is clearly a little louder but it is not overly astringent, the waxiness is still huge and the distillery character is still very much in play. Lots of resin, salt, camphor, black tea, raisins, hints of cognac, sandalwood, toasted cereals, mint and green fruits. Some really beautiful citrus as well with hits of tinned fruits, fruit syrups and more salty seashore notes. This is perilously drinkable and despite that slight woody edge is really delicious, in fact the wood works quite nicely in holding everything together and keeping the whole profile lively and focused. Another stunning old Clynelish in other words.
Finish: It’s not the longest ever but it remains all on fruit resins, wax, touches of wood, chocolate, mead, coal and mint.
Comments: I suspect most of these early 70s casks will not last too much longer before the wood starts to take over. This one was just on the cusp but it was still reliably stunning.
Clynelish 1972-2009. 36yo. G&M for LMDW. Cask 14301. 197 bottles. 59.4%. 70cl.
Nose: This one is bigger, more austere, more mineral and more gravely at first nosing. Some clean oak, loads of tight and sharp coastal notes, wax, paraffin, resin, tons of honeycomb and pollen. We’re not really that far away again from the F&F 14yo, it’s just much bigger, more intense and more compact due to much greater age and strength. The focus of the flavour is quite impressive though. Becomes more floral with a bit of time showing notes of white flowers and dandelions. With water: now it’s just a hotbed of warm honey, green fruits and simmering spices. Green peppercorns in brine, charcoal, oysters, lemon drops and a whole coast line.
Palate: Tha alcohol is quite imposing at first sip, the austerity is still resolutely there with a big crisp saltiness, salt and vinegar crisps in fact. All the usual suspects are here, wax, lemon oil, flowers, flints, seashore, minerals and tiny flecks of peat as well. But you can feel it needs waster… with water: Wow! It opened up perfectly, a thirsty whisky if ever there was one. Bags of bay leaves, green tea, lemon skins, apple peelings, seashore, sandalwood, oysters, wild flowers, all kinds of fresh fruits, wet earth and pebbles. Just lashings of everything, a stunner.
Finish: Fantastically long and packed full of the same spellbinding complexities as the palate. Clear, direct, balanced and intense. Beautiful!
Comments: I’m sure there can’t be many more casks like this one still to be bottled. They’ll start getting harder and harder to come by soon, I suggest you taste one of these old Clynelishes before it’s too late if you haven’t already. Its a unique distillate that anyone serious about whisky should try at least once in their life. Sends all these modern malts back to school as far as I’m concerned.
ps: A vatting of all four is utterly magical!