Origin: Highlands (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry
Added colouring: No
Average price: € 210.00
Official website: www.malts.com
Punctual as taxes (or gas bills), here are Diageo’s annual Special Releases, eight cask strength bottlings chosen from some of the many distilleries in their immense portfolio.
A much-awaited event among enthusiasts, equally divided between those who covet a bottle from their favourite distillery and those who greet the news with detached disdain, finding ways (rightly or wrongly) to criticise the aesthetic and production choices.
Choices that, in addition to labels designed by Ken Taylor and Kevin Tong that are inspired by mythical and legendary animals, also create curiosity thanks to sometimes unusual ageing.
Let’s start with Clynelish, which has been missing from the series since 2015, which to the usual maturation in ex-Bourbon refill adds finishing in seasoned ex-Oloroso and PX Sherry casks: gamble or genius?
The label features a typical Highland wildcat who, legend has it, covered the Clynelish casks with a magical blanket to protect them from an unusual wave of freezing cold.
Other Special Releases are illustrated here, with links to individual articles as they are written.
On the nose, the initial impression is of brown sugar and aniseed with a discreet vegetal vein and black tea, it seems more aged in ex-Rum than Sherry. Tropical fruits (pineapple, mango, coconut) emerge along with peach and apple, with a subtle hint of cocoa and wood. A warm, waxy note makes its way with slow but inexorable stubbornness, embracing the aromas, and shyly a gust of cooked plums appears. Alcohol completely absent, with the addition of water, wood and wax become more evident with the tropical fruit pushed to the fore. A freakish Clynelish.
The palate glides compactly with a good push of spices (pepper, light nutmeg), giving way to red fruits, dried apricot, leather and wood. Very astringent, it also brings with it liquorice, toasted sugar, nuts and an impression of tyres, with a tendency towards bitterness that is not exactly pleasant and rather messy. With water, the fruit notes emerge, as dry as tropical and red, the profile becomes more coherent even if the influence of the Sherry remains inexorable.
The finish is quite long and spicy, with markedly vegetal notes accompanied by wood, tropical fruit and a hint of aniseed.
The finishing in Sherry ate away at the distillate, an almost unrecognisable Clynelish, which in itself would not be a flaw, the problem is that the end result appears disjointed and limp, lacking a recognisable centre and soul. And from a Special Release, especially at this price, much more is to be expected.