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Clynelish distillery, much like Talisker on the isle of Skye, traces its roots to the days of the infamous Highland Clearances. The distillery was established by the Duke of Sutherland, who evicted local crofters in order to make more money from the land he owned around Brora.
In 1968, with expansion in mind, an entirely new distillery was constructed across the road, mimicking the size and shape of the original stills to ensure an identical spirit was produced. The new site kept the Clynelish name while the original was renamed Brora. It continued to produce spirit until its closure in 1983. Since then, the Brora malt has gained something of a cult following amongst collectors with bottles often changing hands for thousands of pounds.
Clynelish remains in operation today, however, with an excellent 14-year-old the main release from current owner Diageo. Such is the depth of the Clynelish character, the spirit is hugely popular amongst blenders and from time to time, casks find their way into the hands of independent bottlers like Berry Bros & Rudd.
Berry Bros & Rudd has operated from its flagship store in St. James Street, London since 1698. Holders of two royal warrants, they count Lord Byron and William Pitt the Younger amongst their former customers. Today, as well as managing the Glenrothes single malt brand, they bottle a variety of single cask, single malts from multiple distilleries.
Bottled at 55.5%, this Clynelish was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2014, from cask number 6871.
Smell: Vanilla, Honey, Fresh Orange, Lemon and Barley with Candlewax and a touch of Bonfire Smoke.
Taste: Salty and Briney with Creamy Vanilla, Heather Honey and subtle wafts of Peat Smoke that meander throughout.
Thoughts: I bought this for around £60. That isn’t a lot to pay for a cask strength malt of 16 years. In fact, it’s excellent value for money. Especially when the whisky was produced at Clynelish, a distillery famous for its quality.
In many ways, this is a great demonstration of doing things the simple way. Take a good quality spirit, put in a decent bourbon cask and leave it to do its thing. There’s been no tinkering, no trendy finishes, just the perfect balance between characterful spirit and oak cask. It’s excellent stuff.