Review: Old Particular Clynelish & Bunnahabhain

2017 has been a bit distracting so far, and I’ve been neglecting my backlog of whiskies to review. I will endeavour to do better. Here’s a double-header of fine Old Particulars to try and catch up a bit though!

Clynelish, 18yo 1997 Douglas Laing Old Particular

(Distilled July 1997, bottled Dec 2015, refill hogshead #DL10999, 298 bottles, 48.4%)

As others have noted the label says this is from a refill hogshead, but there has clearly been some sherry involved somewhere in this whisky’s past…

Nose: Weirdly the thing this immediately reminds me of is Auchentoshan (and we’re supposed to be up in the Highlands rather than Lowlands!) – it has that particular fresh/fragrant/mineral quality that always reminds me of old-fashioned shaving soap. Deeper and more sherried flavours then pop out – blackcurrant and liquorice sweets, and some nice oaky tobacco. It’s atypical for a Clynelish, although if you go looking you can find a bit of the signature wax and honey in the background.
Taste: You really go on a journey with this one. It starts, though, on sweet red fruits, blackcurrants, honey and quite a bit of cereal. It’s a bit posh muesli, actually. There’s some sherry, tea and raisins knocking around too.
Finish: Then it gets a little hot and spicy, before settling into a long sweet and fudgy aftertaste, with some spiced baked apple. It’s a lovely chewy and mouth-filling finish, and definitely my favourite part of this dram.

Bunnahabhain, 14yo 2001 Douglas Laing Old Particular

(Exclusive for the Green Welly Stop. Distilled Dec 2001, bottled May 2016, sherry butt #DL11156, 150 bottles, 48.4%)

Nose: Banana bread! Very rich indeed, with some custard and caramel sauce. There’s just a touch of peat here too, I think, and a sort of heathery earthiness. Some stem ginger, cloves (lots!), and a hint of chocolate mint.
Taste: Dessert in a Yorkshire tea room. Parkin (yum etc…), and a richly-spiced apple pudding with toffee sauce. There’s a sort of dry biscuity chocolate quality too, with a decent pinch of salt.
Finish: Goes a little bit mint choc chip for a bit, with some blackcurrant pastilles. Dried banana chips, more pudding spices, and still a smack of salt.

One of the joys of single-cask bottlings is that you often get whiskies like these that don’t quite fit into the distillery profile. It’s not that they’re totally un-Clynelishy and and un-Bunnahabhainy, but rather they’re fascinating variations.

The Clynelish, though, doesn’t quite come together for me; there’s lots happening but it all ends up feeling a little incoherent. It’s a solid dram for sure, but there are a lot of 1997 Clynelishes out there, many of which are truly stellar. I did love the finish however, and this is all personal taste, obvs.

The Bunnahabhain is a knock-out however, and a great success at a recent tasting. It’s like a turbocharged Bunna, distilled from a selection of very grown-up puddings. It’s one for the winter nights, with all that warming spiced sweetness balanced by spikes of peat and salt. It’s a bit unusual and just straightforwardly gluggable and delicious. Highly recommended.


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