Review: Clynelish, 1996 The Whisky Exchange

Clynelish TWE

Clynelish – 18yo 1996 The Whisky Exchange / Signatory

(Distilled 28/6/96, bottled 8/4/15, refill sherry butt #6509, 606 bottles, 55.5%)

I am – as you’re probably fed up of hearing, and with a fair dollop of understatement – something of a Clynelish fan. The wobble, though, in this happy relationship has been with sherry. Specifically that maturing Clynelish in sherry casks frequently seems to be a dodgy proposition. It can work, but as often as not it just doesn’t jive, at least for me.

(In fact I have a terrible sherried Clynelish somewhere that I’ll review one day just for the LOLs. Seriously, it’s a stinker.)

Just as an aside I’ll note that whereas there seems to be an endless lake of 1997 Clynelish to be bottled this is one of the very few 1996s I’ve come across. I wonder why that is?

Nose: Musty and vinous at first nosing – we’re in an old sherry solera. A bit of dried mushroom too, or maybe rather that umami-rich liquid you get when they’ve been rehydrated. There are some fresher menthol notes too, merging into the more typically deep sherry chocolate (After Eight, anyone?). There’s a floral sweetness going on, but you have to dig for it a bit amid earthy bark and dried leaves. There’s a little bit of apple too.
Taste: Great development on this. It starts on pure Clynelish – lemony and waxy and crystal clear – then big waves of liquorice (Pontefract cake), cocoa, nutmeg and some more of that After Eight-type mintiness. A whiff of clove cigarette. There’s fruitiness too – hard to say what exactly, but it plays its part in the whole and keeps everything lighter than you might expect. Certainly gets very orangey as it goes on – almost a bit old Dalmore-esque.
Finish: Very long indeed. Loads of walnuts (I doubt the butt contained amontillado – but there’s definitely some of that dry nuttiness…) and dark chocolate. Still lots of orange, waxed. Ends (eventually) on a charming little Turkish Delight note – where did that come from?

I came into this thing sceptical, but in this case the sherry / Clynelish pairing is utterly simpatico. It’s a big feller, but with a surprisingly light step. One of those bottles you don’t want to get to the bottom of, and a very well-judged selection by the Whisky Exchange.

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