Drink Magazine

Cruising Through 16 Expressions of Clynelish with the Malt Nuts

By Josh Peters @TheWhiskeyJug

Malt Nuts Clynelish 1

Yes you read that right, we did 16 expressions of Clynelish, though it’s 3 short of being the biggest tasting I’ve done with the group (we did 18 for Talisker), and these 16 are just the start. We’re going to be doing more in the coming months because at Malt Nuts we’re doing Clynelish as a 3 part series. This first round was all Clynelish aged 14 years or younger, round 2 will be 15-19 years and round three will be 20+ years. If you’re a Clynelish fan you’re definitely going to want to stay tuned.

The modern Clynelish distillery has been around since 1968 and was initially built as Clynelish 2 right across the street from the original Clynelish which would get its name changed to the now infamous Brora in 1969. One of the most interesting things about Clynelish is that it was built as a larger scale copy of Brora. They copied the stills exactly, but instead of just having 1 they had 3.

Clynelish Timeline (via Malt Madness)

  • 1968 – Constructed by SMD (became Diageo) as Clynelish 2 across the street from Clynelish (Brora)
  • 1969 – Name changed to Clynelish (dropped the 2)
  • 2003 – Clynelish 14 released as the first OB
  • 2005 – Became Diageo’s one and only “Coastal East” Classic Malt.

As with all Malt Nuts events it was semi-blind and split up into groups which for that evening were:

  • Cut bottlings of Clynelish
  • Cut Signatory bottlings of Clynelish
  • Cut NDP bottlings of Clynelish part 2
  • Cask strength NDP bottlings of Clynelish

It was a great evening filled with fabulous food from our gracious host and his wonderful wife and conversation with fellow whisky geeks all rallying around a single distillery. Now on to the whisky!

Cut bottlings of Clynelish

Malt Nuts Clynelish 2

1A: Clynelish 14 years (46%)

  • Nose: Crushed smarties, tropical fruit, malt, maraschino cherries, vanilla and sherry-like red fruit sweetness.
  • Palate: Malt, citrus, club soda, spice, a bit of fruit and more of that sherry-like sweetness.
  • Finish: Malt, tropical fruit and dried dark fruit.
  • Overall: B (83-86) I’d peg this on the upper end of the B range and overall I’d say it was a nice sipping whisky. I’d never turn down glass if offered.

1B: Clynelish 12 years – James Macarthur’s (45%)

  • Nose: Vanilla, malt, fruit and a bit of citrus peel. I didn’t get much on the nose from this one even after letting it sit for a while and it had a light, almost spirit,y nature to it overall.
  • Palate: Malt, vanilla, fruit and vitamins. That same light, spirity, nature from the nose rolled out underneath.
  • Finish: Malt, spice and citrus.
  • Overall: C+ (77-79) There wasn’t anything bad about this whisky, it just didn’t really hit it for me. Came across really light and carried a an almost spirity undertone to it. Like it was put in a cask that’d been refilled so many times it had nothing left to give.

1C: Clynelish 13 years – Battlehill (43%)

  • Nose: Malt, vanilla, citrus and a nice warm fruit. Basic, but nice.
  • Palate: Malt, vanilla, citrus, rich fruit and graham. Like the nose it’s basic but nice.
  • Finish: Malt, vanilla, citrus and a touch of fruit.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) Nothing to not like, but nothing to get excited about either. A nice simple sipper.

Cut Signatory bottlings of Clynelish

Malt Nuts Clynelish 3

2A: Clynelish 11 years – Signatory (43%)
Cask: Hogshead     Distilled: 2-11-97     Bottled: 6-17-08

  • Nose: Fruit, citrus, malt, vanilla, a bit of dark fruit and Necco Wafers.
  • Palate: Malt, Juicy Fruit gum, touch of spice and a weird bit of wood – slightly astringent.
  • Finish: Fruit, malt, caramel and a bit of that astringency from the palate.
  • Overall: B (83-86) Not bad, if it weren’t for the astringency and Juicy Fruit gum notes it’d be a B+.

2B: Clynelish 14 years – Signatory (43%)
Cask: Hogshead    Distilled: 5-27-98    Bottled: 7-10-12

  • Nose: Vanilla, malt, fruit, caramel, citrus zest and club soda with a sharp alcohol kick.
  • Palate: Club soda, citrus pith, malt, salt, caramel and a sharp astringency.
  • Finish: Vanilla, fruit and a dry astringent bite on it’s way out.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) This one was straddling the C+ line, but in the end I felt like everything balanced out just enough to put it down as a B-.

2C: Clynelish 11 years – Signatory (43%)
Cask: Hogshead     Distilled: 2-18-98     Bottled: 12-17-09

  • Nose: Vanilla, malt, fruit and pie crust.
  • Palate: Fruit, malt, waxy citrus rind and pie crust.
  • Finish: Fruity vanilla.
  • Overall: C+ (77-70) Like 1B it’s not bad, just super light. I was having troubles getting much from this one and even after letting it sit for a while it didn’t open up.

2D: Clynelish 13 years – Signatory (43%)
Cask: Hogshead     Distilled: 2-18-98     Bottled: 3-17-11

  • Nose: Fruit, malt, banana, caramel, touch of char with an overall richness that’s quite pleasant.
  • Palate: Complex rich fruit, dense dark sweetness, a bit of malt and a nice overtone of toasted desserts like creme brûlée.
  • Finish: Fruit, toasted malt and sugar cookies.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) I really enjoyed this one, what a great cask and what a contrast to 2C which was a related to this one. Both were distilled on the same day and filled in similar casks. The amazing diversity of single casks right before our very noses and palates.

2E: Clynelish 9 years – Signatory (43%)
Cask: ex-Bourbon     Distilled: 5-14-93    Bottled: 5-8-03

  • Nose: Fruit, malt, rich dark sweets with a dulce de leche quality to it and a vegetal and papery undertone.
  • Palate: Complex fruit, some malt, spice, a dark papery sweetness that makes me think of Obleas and a vegetal undertone.
  • Finish: Fruit, a touch of spice and a bit of burnt butter.
  • Overall: B (83-86) If it weren’t for that vegetal undertone this would have been a B+. I like duality in my whisky, but it needs to be complimentary.

Cut NDP bottlings of Clynelish part 2

Malt Nuts Clynelish 4

3A: Clynelish 11 years – G&M Whisky Galore (46%)
Distilled: 1992    Bottled: 2003

  • Nose: Buttery fruit, touch of citrus, brûlée and minerality.
  • Palate: Apricot heavy fruit, malt, spice, vanilla and mineral water.
  • Finish: Buttery fruit, malt and vanilla.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) This one teetered between a B- and a B, but in the end I decided to peg it in at a B- due to the limited range of notes on the palate and nose. Still, not a bad whisky.

3B: Clynelish 11 years – G&M Connoisseurs Choice (43%)
Cask: refill ex-Sherry

  • Nose: Saltines, citrus peel, minerality, dry rub spices and a complex aromatic kick that triggered memories of the Wild Turkey rickhouse.
  • Palate: Earthy, malty, fruity, caramel, vanilla, spice, a bit of minerality and slick dulce de leche sweetness that kicks up before the finish.
  • Finish: Fruit, honey, spice, malt and dark sweets.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) I struggled to not give this an A- and even thinking about it now I’m considering it. It was such a weird and lovely whisky, I really enjoyed it.

3C: Clynelish 6 years – The Ultimate (46%)
Cask: ex-Bourbon     Distilled: 3-1-08     Bottled: 12-5-14

  • Nose: Peat, citrus, malt, vanilla, some fruit, smoked meat, dark sweets and a touch floral.
  • Palate: Peat, citrus, malt, vanilla, some fruit, smoked meat, dark sweets and a bit of spice.
  • Finish: Smoke, wood, char and some ambiguous sweetness.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) First sip and sniff and I was ready to give it a B- because it was so unbalanced and peat heavy, but after giving it a swirl and letting it sit for about 15 minutes it evened out and became a tasty whisky. By the end of the evening it had unfurled and moved its way up to a solid B+.

3D: Clynelish 7 years – Provenance (46%)

  • Nose: Waxy fruit, vanilla, complex dessert notes and a light bit of toasted malt.
  • Palate: Banana heavy fruit, graham, dark sweetness, spice and a touch of peat that didn’t show up on the nose even after leaving it to open
  • Finish: Peat, char, graham crackers and a honied sweetness.
  • Overall: B (86-87) This one straddled the B / B+ line, it was really good and after it opened up it got richer, but it was missing a little bit of something to kick it up to that next level. Perhaps it’ll continue to open in the bottle over the next couple of weeks.

Cask strength NDP bottlings of Clynelish

Malt Nuts Clynelish 5

4A: Clynelish 7 years – Signatory (63.8%)
Cask: ex-Bourbon     Distilled: 3-1-08     Bottled: 3-17-15

  • Nose: Butterscotch, fruit, vanilla frosting, caramel, honey and malt. A complex sweet aroma all around.
  • Palate: Butterscotch, fruit, brûlée, banana and caramel. On the whole it reminded me of a Bananas Foster.
  • Finish: Butterscotch, tart fruit (green apples) and banana.
  • Overall: B (83-86) It was rich, complex, sweet and unbalanced. There was nothing grounding this one and while it was dense and rich it felt heavily one sided to me with the sweetness.

4B: Clynelish 10 years – G&M Reserve (58.3%)
For: Binny’s     Distilled: 1999     Bottled: 2010

  • Nose: Astringent kick upfront followed by fruit, touch of wood, dried red fruit, citrus rind, butterscotch heavy dark sweets and a bit of malt.
  • Palate: Dark sweets, dark fruit jam, wood, citrus, brittle heavy dark sweets and a touch of smoky peat.
  • Finish: Spice, wood, smoky char, dried fruit and a bit of honey.
  • Overall: A- (90-92) I had this one as a B+ / A- right away and then I added a bit of water and let it sit for a few minutes, and I’m glad I did because it blossomed into a B+ / A-.  I let it sit for the rest of the event and made sure it the last glass I came back to before cleaning up my glasses and wow… just wow. This one needs a bit of water and time, but once it opens…

4C: Clynelish 14 years – Berry’s (55.5%)
Distilled: 1997     Bottled: 2011

  • Nose: Spice, fruit, brown sugar heavy dark sweets, toasted grains and some honey. A bit of astringency kicks up, but it’s not too distracting.
  • Palate: Malt, spice, complex fruit and a crunchy chewy complex dark sweetness with a weird bit of woody astringency to it.
  • Finish: Baking spice, malt, fruit and pepper.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) Punchy, flavorful, aromatic and dynamic. A bit of water opens it up nicely, amps up the richness and unveils a bit of minerality that’s a nice compliment to the sweetness.

4D: Clynelish 13 years – Single Malt Whisky Society (51.4%)

  • Nose: Meaty, malty and fruity with nice notes of red licorice, graham, citrus and dulce de leche.
  • Palate: Malt, fruit, a sweet and creamy brûlée charter accompanied by a bit of char, citrus and dried fruit.
  • Finish: Fruit, malt, citrus and a bit of wood.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) On the lower end of the B+, flirting with a B, but in the end it had enough diversity and dimension to land it a B+.

Phew, that was a lot of Clynelish. Till next time.


Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts
Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts
Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts
Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts
Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts
Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts
Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts
Cruising Through Expressions Clynelish with Malt Nuts

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