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The name Clynelish (pronounced: KLEIN-leesh) is one of the names in whisky that carries a greater historical weight than most. Given over the course of two centuries to two utterly fantastic whiskies that still manage to retain something of a hidden gem aspect amongst drinkers, even after so many years. People often stumble across Clynelish early on in their journey of whisky discovery, for many it remains a classy and old school favourite, a whisky to return to time and again, even after so many grander malts and bottlings. This article concerns the new Clynelish distillery built in the late sixties, for details on the old Clynelish distillery that was latterly known as Brora then check out the Brora page.
Water: Clynemilton Burn
Stills: 3 Wash. 3 Spirit
Capacity: 3.25 million litres per year
1968-1983: Early days of wax and fruit.
Anyone who is serious about whisky will immediately think of one thing when they hear the word Clynelish. They will think of many of the aged casks from the early seventies that display a uniquely beautiful style of coastal highland whisky. Clynelish was built in the late sixties, its stills an exact replica of those over at the old Clynelsih distillery next door. It was constructed as a modern distillery to meet the demands of the blenders at the time and as such came equipped with steam coils and shell condensers but in this era fermentations were still much longer and as a result, for the first years of the distillerys life, it was producing some very unique distillate. There are many aged examples from this time that have been bottled in recent years and continue to appear occasionally. They are almost all fantastic with wonderfully immense notes of wax, fresh fruits, coastal notes, oil and flecks of peat. It is a very distinctive make, one that is almost extinct in Scotland, a big, complex, difficult Highland style of whisky, it is a style that has many fans. This style of whisky was still very evident in the early eighties, there are very few bottlings from the years in between 74-80, probably due to the demands of the blenders. There are many great bottlings from the early eighties, 83 in particular being often exceptional with loads of wax, honey, salt, fruit and hessian notes. One of the ways Clynelish has retained such a distinctive waxiness to its spirit lies in the seldom thought of Low Wines and Feints Receiver. This is the intermediate storage vessel between spirit distillations and can build up very thick, oily residues over the course of a week at a distillery. Many distilleries clean them once a week but Clynelish only clean once a year. This means that all the various distilled and semi-distilled liquids and compounds that sit in there are effectively marinating in a very large, oily, waxy, flavour compound soup, this helps accentuate the oilier and waxier elements of the spirit.
1983- Present: Still fruity after all these years.
Although Clynelishs trademark wax and fruit flavours have been tamed somewhat by speedier production methods in recent years they remain very prominent in the final spirit. The standard 14yo is one of the best benchmark bottlings on the market and retains a truly distinctive character. Â There are many great independent examples around also that offer a big, robust and complex example of an older style Highland malt. One of the things Diageo does very well is wood, their policy of filling their grain spirits into first fills and their malts into refill has stood them in great stead in recent years and Clynelish is one of the greatest benefactors of this policy. One of the main reasons why Clynelish has retained many of its greatest attributes is the high proportion of refill casks it is matured in. These casks are great at allowing the natural complexities and subtleties of the distillate to shine through, they nurture drier, more aromatically intense and more natural malt whiskies and Clynelish is a perfect example of this process at its best. Hopefully things will remain largely unchanged at this great distillery for many years to come.