It seems a new Diageo rule that Clynelish can no longer be represented on labels, since everything that has been released lately is labeled as ‘Secret Highland Distillery’. Of course that doesn’t mean all these secret highlands are Clynelish, but the ones in this review are, according to almost everyone.
All of these bottles were bought during the pandemic, mostly for bottle-sharing and the ‘Stay The Fuck Home’ Tastings I’ve been doing with a couple of friends. Any excuse to alleviate built up stress by some whisky-retail-therapy, right? (And yes, I know that doesn’t solve anything).
I’ve loved Clynelish ever since I bought my first bottle of Distiller’s Edition at Whiskyslijterij De Koning, some 15 years ago. There have been some misses, of course, but most of them fit right in my alley, with the more waxy versions being very high on my favorites list. It’s a style that sits well with me, and it’s why I keep an eye out for these bottlings. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one and prices have been sky-rocketing over the last couple of year, with a 20 year old Clynelish easily fetching € 200 for a bottle now. A bummer, but not unique to Clynelish either.
Clynelish 1997-2010, 13yo, Refill Hogshead DL 6055, 50% – Old Malt Cask
Some vanilla, lots of apple, pear, fresh oak. The fatty texture of apple peels. It gets a lot drier with some pencil shavings and a good bit of candle wax.
A dry palate, with more impact than I expected. Lots of apple, apple skins. Some wax, pencil shavings, oak. The north side of trees, with the moss on the bark.
The finish mellows quickly and is slightly heavier than the palate. A bit less crisp, less apple-y. Rather long for a whisky of this character.
I’m having trouble rating this. On one hand it’s very light and therefore a lot less impactful than any of the other two in this review. On the other hand the flavors are really great if you sit down for them, and in the end that is what matters.
It’s one of those undemanding whiskies that, if not given the proper attention, just slip by without much notice. I used it in a tasting last week and people were thrilled by it, and I must agree with the enthusiasm.
Secret Highland 2010-2020, 10yo, 52.4% – 10th Anniversary of Passion for Whisky
This one was released only a week and a half ago and sold out in a few hours. There were only 128 bottles available, and it was very decently priced at € 70. Officially this is not a Clynelish, but there are so many markers upon its release that there is no doubt about it.
Apart from the background of the image with which it was announced was one thing, but the comparison to the label of 70s Clynelishes is also rather on the nose.
Anyway, I was just in time to snatch a bottle. I even bought a sample from RvB so I can save mine for a while. The 10cl I had is already gone, mostly for writing these notes.
Very heavy and rich. Honey, simple syrup, some wax coats too. Paraffin and lemon balm.
There’s a pencil dryness too, including the graphite. Quite sharp, with black pepper, hessian. Wax, stewed apples, honey, leather. Wax. Vaseline, paraffin.
The finish is much like the palate, but suddenly adds fruity with stewed strawberries, some cinnamon too. Rich.
I loved this one from the first sip I took. It’s heavy and clunky without much refinement, but the flavors bring this one home. It’s quintessential Clynelish with much attention for the waxy notes, while not forgetting about the apples and other orchard fruits either.
Gorgeous stuff. Now I wished I had two bottles instead of one. Or three. I might have to keep my eyes peeled for similar released of 2010 Clynelishes from renowned sources.
Secret Highland 2000-2020, 19yo, Bourbon Hogshead 1442, 55.6% – Liquid Treasures
Another secret one, but according to the guys I bought it from it came from a parcel of Clynelish casks. Going by reviews online there’s little doubt about it. However, when doing the tasting notes you could’ve fooled me.
It’s a surprisingly affordable bottling, at € 125. Of course, that’s not a small bit of money, but since it’s 19 years old, it’s much cheaper than many others of this age, at cask strength.
A very strange combination of scents. Fresh babbling brooks with mossy boulders. But also old wallpaper and moldy attics. Corky apples, yet crisp.
Rather sharp with lots of white pepper, dry oak shavings. Old brittle paper. Dry in a way that I can imagine the ‘cinnamon challenge’ works. Apples, minerals, moss.
The finish is a bit more towards what you expect with some heathery honey added to the fruits. Still that moldy flavor lingers.
Well, this is weird. I think it benefitted from some time in a sample bottle, compared to when I just opened the bottle half a year ago or so.
The combination of flavors doesn’t really work for me, with the moldy/paper/attic scents and flavors not working well with the minerals and boulders that make it crisp. Also, there is no waxiness to speak of, which makes it a rather un-Clynelish Clynelish. The finish does help a little bit to make me remember this a bit more favorably.
Only this last one is still available, for € 125 in Germany and Luxemburg
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