[Review] Clynelish - 1997 Celebration of the Cask (Càrn Mòr) 57%

Keeping to my New Year's resolution of buying older/independent bottles, here is my first purchase of 2018, and it ticks both the older (20 years old) and independent (Càrn Mòr) boxes. I actually didn't go out and spend £130 blind as this is a whisky I had in Glasgow a few months ago and really enjoyed. As it is a single cask bottling, there are only 581 bottles out there and having looked for it online, it didn't seem there were many left around. I was therefore very amazed to come across one in one of my local spirits shops in Manchester, and as it was there, I could not help myself. I bought it and 10 minutes later it was opened.

So what is it? It is from a not very well know distillery called Clynelish. Many people have heard of Brora as it has been closed for a few years and the bottles available on the market now fetch quite a lot of money, well Clynelish is its still-working sister distillery. It is part of the Diageo group and mainly releases a 14 years old as a lot of its production goes into blends (Johnnie Walker...). Clynelish is located on the Eastern coast of Scotland, North of Inverness and is known for its waxy coastal flavours.

Now the bottle I have is not an official Clynelish release but a single cask version bottled by Càrn Mòr (Morrison and MacKay) as part of the Celebration of the Cask range. The details for this bottle are as follow:

Cask: Sherry Puncheon
Cask Number: 9441
Distillation date: 11/09/1997
Bottling date: 11/09/2017
Bottle Number: 168/581
ABV: 57.0%

It comes in a nice wooden box that you have to open by sliding the back piece from bottom to top to be able to release the bottle. It is of course presented unchill-filtered and with its rather dark amber natural colour.

Nose: Big and rich, cherry, sherry, woody with hints of citrus, a little smoke, some brown sugar. It is also a bit meaty. What I would call a good "dirty sherry" nose! I can definitely smell the 57% at first but with a bit of time, it keeps on evolving, from fresh fruity citrus notes to rich sherried oak and smoke. I could spend hours just smelling the glass!

Palate: Rich and chewy/waxy, with fruity notes, spices, sherry again and some citrus (orange). But there is also another side to the fruity sweetness with a mix of tar, oak and savoury meat, and some pepper at the back of the tongue. Again the 57% is definitely there but each sip is absolutely delicious!

Finish: Pretty long! Sherry of course, quite drying with savoury oak notes, hints of raisins and ginger too. The sherry oak is what lingers a while leaving me craving for some more...

With water: The nose is a bit fresher and more citric but still oozing with sherry. The palate again has lost some of its savoury notes as the oaky sherry takes over. The finish gets the meaty flavour back out first before the spices and ginger replace it to fade into sherry and wood. I think I could be tempted to stick to the 57% for the full experience rather than altering this dram with any H2O...

Overall, a very good first purchase of the year even if I already knew what I was letting myself in for. This Clynelish is as delicious as I remembered it to be at The Pot Still even if I seem to remember more tar on the nose at the time. I will now need to open my standard 14 years old to be able to compare both and see if I can find the Clynelish character in the 20 year-old bottle as some of the reviews I read did question that. Only one way to find out then!


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