Sunday, 10 August 2014

Tasting Notes: Clynelish 1990 (Dun Bheagan, 22 Years Old, Port Hogshead Finished, 46% ABV)

    Well dram-mates, It would seem it's time for an update on tasting notes.  I recently hit up a local LCBO to my neighbourhood and found a tasty treat that I've been hunting for a while.  A few weeks back the LCBO released a varied group of products, including a few new bottles of Scotch, one of which is a 22 year old Clynelish.  Hailing form the Highlands region, this distillery is a favourite of many whisky buffs, and its sister distillery, Brora, is one of the most highly collected, and overpriced, whiskies on the market at this time.  The distillery features a somewhat fruitier malt, with subtle (sometimes), hints of coastal  or waxy notes to it.  As such, it's usually on my list of distilleries for hunting out reasonably-priced bottles.

  This bottling is brought to us by Dun Bheagan (pronounced done vey-gan; like the name Megan).  It was distilled December 1990 and bottled in mid 2013.  It's comprised of 2 casks (#93781 & 93783), which are cobbled together to form Port hogsheads.  Served without the 'aid' of chill-filtration or the addition of artificial colour, this is right up a whisky buff's alley.  However intriguing, at $220.95 [SKU #371013], my whisky-spider sense was tingling and warning me Caveat Emptor.  I typically shy away from expensive bottles at the LCBO  for two reasons: one - they are are not worthy of the high price tag, and two - they typically have little to no information provided about them to make a good judgment call.  So instead of buying an expensive, but intriguing bottle, I waited until one came up for tasting.  Sure enough I found one; and below are my notes.

Dun Bheagan Clynelish 22 Years (Port Hogshead, NCA, NCF, 46% ABV):

Colour: Bright rose gold; no colour added.

Body: Medium but oily, no chill-filtration. Upon first roll of the glass, the drops almost don't seem to want to form.  They do eventually and the legs slowly run (looks like a whack of flavour).

Nose: First crack at the bat, heavy fruits!  Rich red fruits, like overripe strawberry and hints of overripe cherry, with a dash of plums thrown in for good measure.  This sort of dwindles out into some more stone fruits (apricot, peach and the like). That was a little weird; Clynelish isn't usually this type of fruity.  Rotten peaches and old oak, like sun baked picnic tables.  Hints of moss and black pepper wash into some farm-y notes (that's manure, straw and livestock... things that smell bad in your home actually taste quite good in whisky). As it settles out, the farminess becomes stronger, but not to the level of a typical Clynelish; it's still overshadowed by the macerated red fruits.

Palate: Wow! A wallop in the tongue of sharp oak!  Black pepper follows up with its crew of wood spices (cardamon, and cassia).  After the invasion of wood power, the malt slowly comes out from under the shadow.  Malty notes mingled with nectarines (not sweet, just the smell), and far off in the background is a hint of brine.  There is surprisingly little sweetness in this dram - given time it does come forth.  The complaint is that the tannin/wine in the finish wood are far overpowering the soft and delicate malt notes that you should expect in a 22 year old whisky.

Finish: The wood spice continues to stomp all over the finish.  Harsh oak tannin and sharp cassia (Cinnamon's hotter/rougher cousin - think Cinnabon cinnamon), some twinged notes of vanilla extract (the good 35% ABV stuff; which isn't that pleasant to drink but wonderful to nose), and some strawberry cream.  As it dissolves, the malty notes and more red fruit comes through but never enough to save the dram.

Empty Glass:  Lots of wood here (this is where you can usually get a sense of the casks used in the whisky).  There is a huge offering of wood spice (again), both old wood and new, much younger wood.  There is also a dry wine note; not even the red fruity note from before.  Once again, the tannins come through quite strongly.

   Adding water brings more stewed fruits to the nose, and nectarines (still not sweet nectarines though).  It takes even more settling out to get to the malt behind the finish.  When the coastal nature starts to come forth, it does so in spades.  More hints of brine and sweet malt appear, and the farmy notes seems to become more readily available.  The palate, however, suffers with the addition of water; becoming somewhat sweeter with the fruity malt playing lead.  That tannic note showed up again and lead to a bitter finish.
    All in all, it's not a bad dram, but there are a few caveats to this.  My suspicion is that it was over-wooded in the original casks, and this has been subdued with the Port finish.  Although this Port finish may have helped the original over-wooding, it overwhelms the old malt, taking over the soft and subtle notes with a brash red fruit wash.  It's sort of a shame; but not completely undrinkable.  Overall, I would have guessed this was a 12-15 year old port finish Clynelish, not a 22.  Seeing as it is overpriced to begin with as a 22 year old, it is even more-so when you're not experiencing the full age benefit. There is a wonderful Clynelish under there, its just buried.

     In conclusion, this bottle doesn't make the grade and will not join my collection, but it was worth the taste.  Remember that whisky tasting is a subjective thing, and you may enjoy this heavily wooded dram more than I did.  Try it if you can, but skip the purchase until you have; there are many more worthy bottles out there to spend your hard earned money on.  Keep you stick on the ice, and the ice out of your glass.

                                                          Roscoe (ScotchGuyTO)