Game of Thrones – Lagavulin & Clynelish

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Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is an American TV series, produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for HBO and based on the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R. R. Martin. It premiered on the 17th of April 2011 and the final series is due to air later this year on the 14th of April.

Set in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, the series follows the struggle for power as various noble houses battle for control of the Iron Throne. Thanks to the extensive work done by author Martin in creating a rich and detailed backstory for both his world and the characters in it, there are few, if any, fantasy series that can match Game of Thrones for sheer, gritty realism. No mean feat, for a show that features zombies, direwolves and dragons.

To celebrate the impending arrival of the show’s final season, HBO have teamed up with Diageo to release a series of whiskies honouring the occasion. First came the White Walker, a new and exclusive Johnnie Walker blend, named after the show’s main antagonists. Then came a range of single malts, produced at some of Diageo’s best loved distilleries, each paired with one of the noble houses of Westeros… There’s Lagavulin representing House Lannister, Talisker for House Greyjoy, Cardhu representing House Targaryen, Dalwhinnie is House Stark, Clynelish is House Tyrell, The Singleton for House Tully, Royal Lochnagar represents House Baratheon and Oban is linked to the infamous Night’s Watch.

I must confess that Whisky and TV tie-ins have never seemed particularly appealing to me in the past but when it’s a show I love as much as Game of Thrones, paired with distilleries as renowned as these, I can’t really help but take notice. Unfortunately, a few of the whiskies released in the series struck me as a little bit pedestrian, with low strength abv on display almost universally.

Two expressions stood out, however. First was the 9 year old House Lannister Lagavulin which was bottled at 46% and then there was the House Tyrell Clynelish Reserve, bottled at a tempting 51.2%. For me at least, the choice was clear and thanks to the Bottle Club, my two pre-ordered bottles were delivered the second they became available.

House Lannister Lagavulin 9 Year Old

Lagavulin was founded in 1816 by John Johnstone and stands in the shadow of the ruined Dunyvaig Castle, one time home to the MacDonald “Lords of the Isles”. Their core expression, a 16 year old, has long been a fixture on Diageo’s classic malts lineup and is commonly cited as one of the finest examples of a single malt you can find anywhere.

For this range, Lagavulin was paired with House Lannister, the wealthy yet dastardly family who have spent much of the series ruthlessly clawing their way into power. The family motto may be ‘Hear Me Roar‘ but they are better known by the slogan ‘A Lannister always pays his debts‘.

Bottled at 46% and aged for 9 years, the Game of Thrones Lagavulin retails for around £65 in the UK.

Smell: Peat and ash. Smoky bacon. Grilled apples with lemon and vanilla cream. Barley sugars. Wee touch of brine.

Taste: Smoke – naturally. Also pepper and liquorice. Chewy bourbony vanilla and a touch of bitterness from the oak. Smoky bacon crisps.

Thoughts: This is an enjoyable Lagavulin that could perhaps be accused of being a little overpriced at £65. Especially when the excellent 8, bottled at 48%, is available for under £50. It’s also worth noting, that the addition of water failed to create any Scotch mist, suggesting that it has been chill filtered, despite bottling at 46%. That’s a bit of a shame, but perhaps not surprising given the widespread appeal this series is likely to hold.

Any new release from Lagavulin is welcomed round these parts and I’m certainly enjoying this version which feels different from either the 8 or 16. There seems to be more of a bourbon influence, creating a more vanilla’d character and a slightly more intense arrival. A wee bit overpriced but undoubtedly tasty.

For more on Lagavulin.


House Tyrell Clynelish Reserve

Clynelish stands on the coast of Sutherland in the northeast of Scotland. Originally built by the Marquess of Stafford in 1819, it famously moved to a new location across the road in 1968, with the old building continuing to produce spirit under the name of Brora. Brora eventually ceased to operate in the great distillery cull of the 1980s but news emerged a couple of years ago that Diageo were planning to re-open the site and begin producing spirit once more. Clynelish, meanwhile, has carried on producing whisky in its new location and is well loved amongst connoisseurs for its distinctive character.

Clynelish is paired with House Tyrell, the wealthy family of Highgarden, most of whom were last seen (SPOILERS) exploding in a fiery inferno.

The Clynelish Reserve is bottled at 51.2% and retails at around £50 in the UK.

Smell: Vanilla, honey and candle wax. Sea breeze. White pepper. Caramel. Pears and peaches. Wee touch of smoke.

Taste: Pineapple and orange. Toffee. Cinnamon and pepper. Subtle brine and smoke. Gingery heat on the finish.

Thoughts: This one is a bit more sensibly priced at £50 a bottle. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a bad Clynelish and while this is some way short of the best, it still manages to at least maintain the level of quality I’ve come to expect from the distillery.

Clynelish is a true character malt and the decision to bottle this version at a higher strength has allowed for a rich, spicy and intense experience. I can’t help but wonder what inexperienced whisky drinkers lured in by the Game of Thrones label would make of it, but those who like their dram full-flavoured and long-lasting should be well satisfied.

For more on Clynelish.



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