Friday, September 1, 2017

Whisky Review: James Macarthur Clynelish 12 Year 1997/2010

For whatever reason, a lot of Clynelish from 1997 has made its way into the hands of independent bottlers over the last ten years, most of it from ex-bourbon casks. These provide an interesting glimpse into the range of flavors from this distillery, in comparison to the slightly muddy OB 14 Year.

This whisky was distilled in 1997, filled in what was almost certainly a refill bourbon hogshead, then bottled in 2010 at 45% without coloring or chill filtration.

Thanks to Michael Kravitz for the sample.

James Macarthur Clynelish 12 Year 1997/2010 Cask #11828

Nose: malty, some wood spices, a little musty vanilla, orange peel, banana. After adding a few drops of water it becomes simpler, but picks up a little waxiness and feels more traditionally Clynelish.

Taste: sweet malt up front, undertones of new make spirit and caramel thickness throughout, strong apple notes in the middle, a few tannic prickles near the back. After dilution it becomes sweeter throughout and the apples become raisins, but what oak there is becomes cardboard-y and it also picks up some citrus-y sourness and a little bit of wax.

Finish: apple/pear, clean malt, caramel

This is a very naked Clynelish. I thought that was the case in the BBR Clynelish I tried several years ago, but this is even more so. While the new make character isn't oppressive, it is clear that the casks weren't active enough to smooth off those rough edges after a dozen years. Ultimately I don't think this is significantly better than the OB 14 Year, despite that one's flaws. There's just not enough going on around the youthfulness to make it really engaging except as an academic exercise.

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