By: David Othenin-Girard
K&L Staff Member
There's little dispute that Clynelish is one of Scotland's best distillers. There's something ethereal and otherworldly about this spirit, even in their most pedestrian offerings. But unless you're a real hunter, searching for the great independently bottled casks that dot the shelves of world's finest bars and retail shops, you've likely had limited experience with this amazing malt. We've only been offered Clynelish a few times in our history and we've never passed up an opportunity to bottle it. It's hard to remember a cask coming anywhere close to the superlative quality of this second fill sherry butt. Even the magical 21 year old Sovereign wax top, which perhaps highlights the quality of the spirit more obviously, doesn't achieve the incredible intensity and depth of this unprecedented butt. Clynelish is a powerful malt. It can sometimes feel overwhelming or too loud. Especially when paired with something as overt as a sherry butt. But when we found this barrel, one of the final available in the Signatory warehouses, we were prepared to pay whatever it took to get these bottles here. What's most incredible about this special whisky is that the distinct distillery character still shines through behind the obvious sherry influence. The butt in question was objectively one of the most impressive we've ever seen. Deep dark mahogany, very thick and obviously very very old. And the whisky is significantly dark in bottle than I'd expected it to be. One tiny whiff and you're transported directly to the banks of the North Sea, cold salty air whipping across your exposed face. Deep and profound like the ocean itself, this whisky exists as a relic of a previous era. Immediately, we've entered the dark damp warehouse, moss, the finest fresh tobacco leaves, old leather, beeswax, wild honey, whiffs of almond butter, sweet crunch caramel tuiles, cinnamon poached pear, roasted herbs, black tea. On the palate rich, almost chewy in texture. Bold savory saltiness coming through and the ripest orchard fruit. More leather, machined metal, pure dark chocolate, exotic mahogany, big spices. Something like stepping into a 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom and eating the thing piece by piece from the inside out. With a bit of water, the big rich stone fruit comes out in front of the savory notes. Still on the palate the saltiness is absolutely unquestionable. Bold spice, rich in weight and completely overwhelming textually. Only the tiniest bit of water if any is really needed. This one loves air. The total package here. I don't expect to see many more whiskies of this caliber in our future. Without a doubt the Single Malt of the year for me.