I've tried the OB Clynelish 14 Year before and quite enjoyed it, so I was really looking forward to trying this similarly aged small batch (three casks married together) from Berry Brothers & Rudd. It was bottled at 55.5% from what were most likely refill ex-bourbon hogsheads.
Thanks to Micahel Kravitz for a sample of this whisky.
Berry Brothers & Rudd Clynelish 14 Year 1997/2011 Casks 4659-4661
Nose: sweet, clean malt, some vegetal hints of new make, light bourbon barrel influence - vanilla, toffee, and new-ish oak, wood spices. After adding a few drops of water, there's a light but persistent maritime influence with a touch of bacon coming out, some floral notes emerge, with fresher malt notes but less new make that integrate better with the wood.
Taste: thick cask strength sweetness throughout, caramel mid palate and back, with light pepper and oak tannins coming in alongside. After dilution, the sweetness becomes slightly less intense, but more honied and waxy, with the oak gaining more ground and becoming woodier and less tannic, and some candied citrus peel and ginger emerging in the middle, with hints of chocolate and bourbon barrel fruit at the end.
Finish: bittersweet oak, light caramel, slightly green
This reminds me an awful lot of the Arran Bourbon Single Cask I tried a while ago. They're both 'naked malts' in Michael's terminology - younger, refill bourbon cask whiskies that are still focused on the spirit itself rather than the casks that they were aged in. Thankfully this one takes water much better than the Arran, opening up into a more classic Clynelish character. However, it remains relatively simple either way.
While I found this whisky enjoyable, it ultimately seems more instructive than anything else. With water it does a great job of showing off the distillery's trademark waxiness. However, as something to sit around and drink, I would probably reach for the OB 14 Year more often than this if I had a full bottle. It takes just the right mood to properly enjoy these naked malts - more cask influence is an easier sell most of the time.