*I’m reviewing a single cask, single malt this week and as always, this means limited availability so obviously it may no longer be possible to pick this bottle up. However, hopefully it still proves useful by drawing your attention not just to the output of this particular distillery, but also to the bottler, who’s releases are well worth exploring.
Much like Talisker on the isle of Skye, Clynelish Distillery has it’s roots in a dark period of Scotland’s history known as the ‘Highland Clearances’. The Duke and Duchess of Sutherland evicted much of the local population of crofters to make way for more profitable uses of their land. As well as sheep farming, the Duke established several new businesses in and around the town of Brora – one of which was Clynelish Distillery.
Clynelish was expanded in 1968 and a new site built opposite the original. This new distillery took the Clynelish name while the original was renamed Brora and continued to operate until 1983. Since then, whisky from Brora Distillery has grown a cult following amongst connoisseurs and can change hands for thousands of pounds. Clynelish meanwhile continues to operate today, with two core releases bottled by owners, Diageo – a 14 year old and a Distiller’s Edition.
Such is the character of the Clynelish spirit that it has always been popular with blenders and many casks seem to end up in the hands of independent bottlers. The bottle I’m going to review this week was released by Berry Brothers and Rudd – the oldest Wine and Spirit’s Merchant in the UK.
Berry Bros & Rudd has operated from it’s flagship store in St. James Street, London since 1698. It holds two royal warrants and can count Lord Byron and William Pitt the Younger amongst it’s past customers. In 1923 they created well known blended whisky ‘Cutty Sark’ which they later sold to Edrington, obtaining the Glenrothes Single Malt brand in return. They also continue to release a series of excellent single cask, single malts and single grain whiskies from a variety of distilleries – including the afore-mentioned Clynelish.
The bottle I’m reviewing is actually the second Clynelish bottled by Berry Bros & Rudd that I have owned. The first was from Cask Number 6470 but this particular bottle is from Cask Number 6871. It was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2014 making it 16 years old. It’s bottled at a hefty Cask Strength of 55.5% ABV and there’s been no chill filtering or colour added.
So without any further waffling let’s talk about the whisky itself… On the nose there’s Vanilla, Honey, Fresh Orange, Lemon and Barley but then there’s also Candlewax and Bonfire Smoke and Sea Breeze. The flavour is Salty and Briney with Creamy Vanilla and White Pepper and Honey with subtle wafts of Earthy Peat Smoke meandering through.
The Scores: About the Scoring System…
Smell: 17.5 / 20. Very distinctive, characterful whisky.
Taste: 18.5 / 20. I always enjoy Clynelish, and this is no exception. Big flavour and a great mouth feel, smoke but not too much.
Value for Money: 8.5 / 10. Came in around the £60 mark – not a lot to pay for a reasonably mature single malt of this character and quality – bottled at cask strength and without chill filtering.
Overall: 44.5 / 50. In many ways it’s a great example of how to do the simple things well. Good quality spirit matured in a decent bourbon cask for a good amount of time and naturally presented. Great stuff – and exactly what I’ve come to expect from Berry’s.