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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

July 28, 2023


Whiskyfun is 21

We are 21, Session 1

Let's have some Celebratory Clynelish 2010, 1993, 1990, 1983, 1965 and 1950



Indeed today, we are celebrating our 21st anniversary. Which means that this vintage website and its cavern-era technology that makes us the envy of both Silicon Valley and the whole world are now older than most whiskies and other spirits we taste. No good for those avid taxpayers at Google but at least the readers of Whiskyfun don't come here by chance and after all, over the past few months, we got mentioned for example in Time Magazine, Le Figaro, The Telegraph and countless large and smaller websites of superior quality.


All while we don't even write about cocktails (we stopped doing that around fifteen years ago, so we've never become real influencers, have we). And our figures remain high, with many million visits a year (I believe so, have to check our statistics, haven't done that for many, many months, perhaps one year). What's more, we also keep feeding our wee page in the very excellent Whisky Magazine & Fine Spirits and go on doing three or four destructured tutored tastings (a.k.a. masterclasses, ha) a year at the poshest whisky festivals.

That being said, a trend that seems important to me is that we are now receiving and therefore tasting more 90-point or more rums and cognacs or armagnacs than whiskies that would also fetch such high scores, though there are at least five times more whiskies reaching the door of Château Whiskyfun. In essence, there may well be more superstars these days within these malternative categories, which, moreover, are attracting more and more malt enthusiasts. It's true that the countless NAS (Non-Age Statement) whiskies spiked with PX, STR or new oak (or Laphroaig, tequila, zinfandel, mezcal, pineau, beer, kombucha… maybe not kombucha) not to mention the often jaw-dropping prices don't help much. In my opinion, no NAS should be worth more than 100 euros, the whiskies – and rums - being usually much younger than they would like us to believe. And no, the fact of doing triple-oak, quintuple-cask or funny stories won't change anything about that. Victorian rebranding also seems to me to need to be used with more caution. But after all, it's not really my business and at WF, we still love them all, whisky is all about people and sharing anyway (isn't it).

Good, as we have often done on the occasion of our anniversary celebrations, we shall now enjoy some carefully selected Clynelish, vertically... and try to aim high in terms of final vintages. Cheers!

Plenty to celebrate in Scotland! (photograph Marcel Van Gils)

Secret Highland Distillery 2010/2020 (51.9%, Liquid Art, bourbon, 174 bottles)

Secret Highland Distillery 2010/2020 (51.9%, Liquid Art, bourbon, 174 bottles) Five stars
This one had slipped through my fingers. Colour: white wine. Nose: yeah. I'll say it again, what a shame that the indies have to use 'secret names'. No good. This is a perfect young Clynelish for example, rather waxier than other 2010s at that, so all credit to Liquid Art (they deserve it anyway) and peanuts for the distillery. Perfect grapefruit, paraffin, lemongrass, papayas, limestone, sauvignon blanc, honeysuckle, plus a little beach sand. Honestly, If I were the distiller, I would be proud to see my name on this wee bottle. With water:  Barbour grease, new rubber bands, Scotch tape, new electronics, chalk, porridge, elderflowers… Mouth (neat): one of the best styles of tenners out there, together with Springbank and Ardbeg. Lovely rustic sourness, overripe apples, rhubarb, cactus juice (or agave), some saltiness, polishes… With water: Clynelish can take a lot of water, it'll never fall apart and this is just another example. Finish: long, perfect waxiness, lemons, wee rubbers, small berries, one whelk (I'm sorry, whelks) and.. well, Clynelish. Comments: always glad to see that they never lost the original recipe up there in Brora (but we had no doubts). Extraordinary ten-years-old, a shame that they only had one hundred-and-seventy-four bottles.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

Candlekitty 12 yo 2010/2023 (57.1%, Whisky Sponge, Decadent Drinks, refill barrel)

Candlekitty 12 yo 2010/2023 (57.1%, Whisky Sponge, Decadent Drinks, refill barrel) Five stars
Did you notice the 100°proof? A very conceptual label on this one, but between us, you could put a portrait of Trump or Putin on any such Clynelish and still get away with it. Didn't Aristotle state that the liquid always transcends the design anyway? Colour: white wine. Nose: a tad less oak, a little less roundness, a notch more refillness (what?) Other than that, same whisky and no-one will ever complain. Certainly not me. With water: no elderflowers this time, rather chalky apples and sorb. Mouth (neat): fresh tart lemons, grapefruit skin, waxes, green gooseberries, yuzu, brine… Even olives. Olives are the Jimmy-Pages of any spirits (IMHO). With water: ah there, this firmness, this inscrutable brutality to which we surrender (S, better drop those old cigarettes that you just found in your son's drawer). Finish: long and amazing. Top-four distillate, as ever. Remember, HP, Clynelish, Ben Nevis, Springbank. But don't ask me to rate the distillers themselves, there are some real unpleasant individuals among them. I agree, what a surprise. Comments: marvellous Clynelish yet again, I could have gone even higher than…
SGP:562 - 90 points.

Secret Highland 10 yo 2010/2020 (52.4%. Boogieman for 10th anniversary Passion for Whisky, Holland, 128 bottles)

Secret Highland 10 yo 2010/2020 (52.4%. Boogieman for 10th anniversary Passion for Whisky, Holland, 128 bottles) Five stars
LOL. Quite a few funny bottlers have already been reusing this old official (then G&M) label. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one's even tarter than the Candlekitty and remains shock-full of Clynelishness. Sublime fresh plaster, grist, porridge, paraffin, shoe polish and apple compote. With water: back to barley, mash and beer. Mouth (neat): wow. Top of malt-whiskydom. Incredible mezcalness, olive oil, green lemons… With water: astounding fresh tropical fruits, grapefruits, waxes and raw barley… Finish: just perfect till the end. Comments: astounding bottle, nearing the 91-line yet again. But it is 'secret', so it could as well be Glenmorangie or Wolfburn. Of course I'm joking…
SGP:662 - 90 points.

Please, that's enough 2010…

Highland Single Malt 27 yo 1993/2020 (54.4%, Thompson Bros., 20th Anniversary of Dornoch Whisky Bar, refill hogshead)

Highland Single Malt 27 yo 1993/2020 (54.4%, Thompson Bros., 20th Anniversary of Dornoch Whisky Bar, refill hogshead) Four stars and a half
Naturally, we have no proof that this would be Clynelish, as the kitten on the label could well be there only by chance. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we're close to the waxes, polishes, fresh breads, dandelions, rosehip tea, beeswax, also old metals, coins, copper… Didn't this one disintegrate a little bit? Let's check that. With water: no, it did not, it just went totally waxy, in a beehive-y kind of way. Something of an antique malt whisky. Mouth (neat): orange skins, peppery waxes, pizza oil, tarragon… Not your usual Clynelish for sure. With water: some saltiness, coming out, anchovies, sardines, old Sancerre, oysters… Could it be something else, after all? Hey why not some unpeated Caol Ila, a.k.a. Highland Caol Ila? I have to confess I am a little lost. Finish: medium, salty, very coastal, fully on waxy sardines, should that exist. Comments: humbling whisky that's playing it cat and mouse. I told you, it's about cats.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Clynelish 25 yo 1990/2015 (46.9%, Cadenhead, Cask Ends, barrel, cask #1008)

Clynelish 25 yo 1990/2015 (46.9%, Cadenhead, Cask Ends, barrel, cask #1008) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: fully on all kinds of oils, lamp oil, engine oil, sunflower oil, even frying oil, then beeswax, mangos, grapefruits, melon skins, beech ashes… Just between us, It's funny that Cadenhead would have bottled this, considering how it could have overshadowed Springbank. My own opinion, naturally. Mouth: no, wait, I'm getting it, it's rather kind of flawed, but we still love it. Sour citrus juice (whose bottle had been opened last week), passion fruit ice cream, whacky vegetable (oxidation?), gherkins, lime, English champagne (joking, love you all)… Finish: medium, with a lot of green peppercorns, plus lemons and old waxes. Comments: very moving, let's say It's like admiring a painting of the Virgin and Child slowly deteriorating in an ancient Tuscan church.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Highland Single Malt 30 yo 1990/2021 (47.5%, Vintage Bottlers, Secret Series 1, sherry cask, 325 bottles)

Highland Single Malt 30 yo 1990/2021 (47.5%, Vintage Bottlers, Secret Series 1, sherry cask, 325 bottles) Five stars
The honourable bottlers would give you the coordinates (58.0245° N, 3.8661° W), in case you'd be in for shrimp mayonnaise with a few lettuce leaves and a pint of lager at the Royal Marine Hotel… Colour: gold. Nose: mangos and passion fruits speaking out first, then stewed rhubarb, with meringue and custard on top. Pink grapefruits, perhaps kiwi. It is one of those pretty tropical Clynelishes, already making your mouth water… Mouth: fully in line with the nose, exotic, tart, citrusy, perhaps a little mono-dimensional but in a way, that's an asset as it would stress the purity of this juice. Moderate beeswax, no shoe polish, and something that would really remind us of Rosebank this time. Pretty sherbety. Finish: medium, more on passion fruit, mango and grapefruit, plus a little yuzu in the aftertaste. Comments: the sherry was not really noticeable. In the folding-chair, as we sometimes say. A superb, rather easier old Clynelish to have for dessert, perhaps.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Clynelish 20 yo 1983/2003 (56.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #26.28)

Clynelish 20 yo 1983/2003 (56.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #26.28) Five stars
From a bottle that I was having in my own cellar and that went then abroad, only to be caught by Angus who served it on the occasion of his wedding. Are you following me here? What I'll add is that in my book, Clynelish 1983 is very close, albeit pretty different, to Clynelish 1971-1974. Ma certo! Colour: light gold. Nose: pfff. Grand cru. Too young. Top of Whiskydom, dominant, extraordinarily pure, all on slate, chalk, paraffin, leek, asparagus, the whackiest guavas, woodruff… Holy Suzy, would you please call our friends at the AMPB? That's the Anti-Malt-o-Porn-Brigade, naturally. With water: some immaculately pure waxiness. Mouth (neat): wow-oh-wow-oh-wow. Citrusy peppers and waxes to the 10th power. With water: just grand. Citrus peel, waxes, light coastal saltiness, dried fruits. Finish: long, but please never drown these, use water very parsimoniously. Peppers in the aftertaste. Comments: the only other item that would be as spirit-driven as this would be a Molotov cocktail – or a north-Korean rocket.
SGP:652 - 93 points.

Clynelish 29 yo 1965/1994 (52.1%, Whyte & Whyte for the Spirits Library, USA, sherry cask, cask #667, 750ml)

Clynelish 29 yo 1965/1994 (52.1%, Whyte & Whyte for the Spirits Library, USA, sherry cask, cask #667, 750ml) Five stars
Right, 'Old' Clynelish, so Brora before it became Brora, the crème de la crème of malt whisky in my book, gathering waxes and mineral and organic smokes as if there was no tomorrow. Luckily there was to be a tomorrow, thanks to some drought on Islay and to the very wise board of the D.C.L. Let's add that 'Whyte & Whyte' used to be the American arm of Signatory Vintage and that we've already tried this cask under the latter brand name. But hey, you're never 100% sure the whiskies will be exactly the same, as crossing the Atlantic alone could well have changed a few aspects. You're right, probably not, but any excuse is a good excuse in whisky terms… What's sure is that this 'W&W' bottle is extremely rare. Colour: light gold. Nose: by Jove, I've never found this many kinds of waxes and polishes in any whisky. Incredible nose, I'm also reminded of some very old vintages of white Château Margaux (Pavillon Blanc). An old shoe-shine box, really, plus marrow and many ueber-tertiary aromas, either floral or mineral. The waxiness is incredible, we're also reminded of any great old Sauternes that went dry. With water: quince jelly, shoe polish, Conolly leather polish, Barbour grease, almond oil and pistachio butter. Between us, give pistachio butter to all Russian soldiers and the war in Ukraine is over. Mouth (neat): it literally flattens the taster, being massively waxy and metallic. Perhaps a tad difficult at this stage. With water: no, it just needed a few drops of water. Ground nuts of all kinds, plus marrow and leek soup. Finish: same. Comments: astounding whisky, but not the same as the last time I tried it (from a Signatory bottle, well I believe we've downed a few over the decades). Remember whisky does change/evolve/mature/improve/deteriorate in glass, even if often very, very slowly.
SGP:563 - 91 points.

Wait, don't we need a proper signature whisky?...

Ainslie's King's Legend 'Old Special' (no ABV, OB, UK, blend, dark brown glass, +/-1950)

Ainslie's King's Legend 'Old Special' (no ABV, OB, UK, blend, dark brown glass, +/-1950) Four stars and a half
Clynelish's main blend, together with the often whackier 'Royal Edinburgh'. There was also a spring-cap version, but this one bears a twist cap. It is 'Guaranteed Absolutely Pure'. Colour: golden. Nose: meaty soups and pineapple syrups, I would say, then quince jellies, liqueurs and syrups, tajines, pansies, gorse, copper… It's evolved for sure, all aromas having become, say a little fuzzy, but pleasure is intact. Mouth: oh wow. It is incredibly smoky – although that would be coal rather than peat -  also salty, fermentary, with 'old fruits', soups, chutneys, some kind of honey mead for sure (chouchen)… It is rather a malty soup. Astounding spices, turmeric, paprika, chocolate… Finish: rather long, saltier yet, soupy, with some cabbage and leek soup, eggplants, turnips… To be honest this is not the easiest part. Comments: glass was not stable back then, neither was it coated as it is today. I'm not sure I should have actually swallowed this old blend in fact, but as everyone knows, the whisky industry has always been a paragon of ethics and respect, so I did it with gratitude, a clear conscience and a light heart, for our Common Cause.
SGP:573 - 88 points.

(Hugs to my compadre Angus, The Auld Alliance crew, Hun, KC, Morten, Tim and Tom – you're forever young, guys.)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Clynelish we've tasted so far







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