Monday, July 11, 2016

Whisky Review: van Wees The Ultimate Clynelish 23 Year 1991/2014

Clynelish gets a lot of hype in the whisky community and old Clynelish gets even more. While a lot of this is for the peated releases from Brora, older Clynelish has gotten some of that shine. This makes is fairly rare to see many casks over 20 years old on store shelves anymore. But van Wees released these casks in their Ultimate series for a seriously low price.

This whisky was distilled October 29th 1991, filled into two hogsheads, then bottled on November 14th 2014 at 46% without coloring or chill filtration.

Thanks to Michael Kravitz for the sample.

van Wees The Ultimate Clynelish 23 Year 1991/2014 Casks #13213+13214

Nose: very rich, solid bourbon cask influence (caramel, oak, vanilla, nuts), sweet citrus peel (lemon, grapefruit), sealing wax, chalk, seashells/salinity, floral, berries, cured meat. After adding a few drops of water the berries and fruit notes dominate the nose and take on an almost oily sherried character, while the cured meat notes become strong enough to makes me think of peated whiskies.

Taste: big malt/wood sweetness up front with berry esters in the background, green tea overtones and beeswax underneath starting in the middle, fairly clean fadeout through more waxy character into muted grapefruit bittersweetness at the back, with a mild oak character throughout. After dilution the berry notes become much stronger and grape-ier while the oak at the back becomes sharper and more tannic, again almost mimicking a refill sherry cask whisky.

Finish: long, lingering, and evolving - bittersweet floral notes, salinity, clean malt, mild oak, wax, chalk

This is a bit of an odd whisky. The nose and finish are magnificent and everything I could hope for from an older Clynelish. The palate, in comparison, seems kind of unidimensional and uninspiring. There isn't anything flawed about it other than a lack of complexity. Michael had a similar take, but got slightly different notes. Not too surprising when he had a whole bottle to work through.

Still, it's hard for me to quibble given that van Wees released this at a fair bit under the going rate for Clynelish of this vintage, so you more or less get what you pay for. Or, more precisely, everyone who managed to buy a bottle did. It's been sold out for a while, so I'll have to turn elsewhere to scratch that old Clynelish itch.

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