Whisky Review #94: Clynelish 1996 18 Years Old (Bottled by Signatory Vintage)

Ah Clynelish, how we love thee. When you consider that this distillery has been around since 1819 (the history can get complicated due to the Clynelish/Brora associations, but please bear with me) and plays a huge role in several of the largest blends in the business, it is no surprise that its produce is not only highly prized, but also highly sought after.

As we have previously delved into the history of the distillery, we will not revisit that chapter and I shall instead point readers in the direction of where that information can be found: Clynelish.

It is well known that an older distillery by the name of Clynelish was built in 1819 and operated as such until 1967, when a newer distillery was built adjacent to it and assumed its name, with the older facility initially being mothballed.

However, due to there being a drought on Islay, the distillery’s parent company, DCL, decided to utilise it to produce peated whiskies in order to supply the various blends under the company’s purview. This led to them changing the name of the older distillery to Brora and both distilleries ran in tandem from 1967 until 1983, when Brora was mothballed and has lain silent ever since.

The whiskies produced during the Brora years are highly sought after and tend to command staggering prices online and at auctions, especially those produced in 1972.

Both the distilleries in focus, with Clynelish in the background and Brora in the front. (Picture credit: http://www.diageo.com)

While the distillery’s main purpose would be to produce whisky for blends such as Johnnie Walker (where it is the signature malt in Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve), it is also bottled officially by parent company, Diageo, and can be found as as 14 Years Old expression as well as a Distiller’s Edition with an additional finish in Oloroso Seco casks.

Inevitably, some of these casks are available to be bottled independently and there are a multitude of expressions which have been matured in both bourbon and sherry casks which are periodically released by various independent bottlers.

One such independent expression is the focus of today’s review and it is a Clynelish which was distilled in 1996, matured for 18 years in a single refill sherry butt before being bottled at a standard abv of 43% in an Ibisco decanter by independent bottler Signatory Vintage.

So, let’s jump right into the review!

Clynelish 1996 18 Years Old, bottled by Signatory Vintage.

Clynelish 1996 18 Years Old (Bottled by Signatory Vintage, 43% abv)

Colour: Straw

Nose: Initial entry presents some red fruits, green cigar leaves, strong mineral hints which are reminiscent of both sea salt and limestone, white pepper and menthol. With time, cinnamon, nutmeg and some camphor emerge to augment the initial elements. (18/25)

Palate: Initial entry presents more of the sweet red fruits, white wine, sea salt, limestone and cigar leaves, with menthol, white pepper, camphor, some alcohol and oak following not too far behind. The trademark Clynelish waxiness also makes an appearance early on.

Cinnamon and nutmeg then make an appearance and amplify the warmth. Fairly hot on the palate even with the reduced alcohol strength, although it is not overly or obtrusively so. (17/25)

Finish: Medium on the finish, with the lingering warmth from the wood spices, fading red fruits and some sea salt bringing things to a close. (16/25)

Balance: A solid, if somewhat unspectacular expression of Clynelish. In truth, it may not be the best representation of what the distillery is capable of, but it is fairly easy drinking and something which can be sipped and savoured as an occasional treat. (17/25)

Rating: 68/100

I have to admit that this falls somewhat short of the expectations that I reserve for Clynelish, primarily because it is a whisky that I hold in high regard. That being said, it is an expression that can be enjoyed at the right moment and with the right company, so I can’t fault it.

Not the best Clynelish I have ever sampled, but definitely not the worst either.

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.






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