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Clynelish

Clynelish 14 Year Old (20cl 46%)

€22.30 $26.36 £19.99

Spice

Pepper, cinnamon, ginger, herbs

Aged Scotch whisky is often much softer and easier on the palate than its alcohol strength would imply. So much so, in fact, that sometimes you need something to liven things up a bit. Luckily, a good number of single malts possess lively spicy flavours, some of them in great enough quantities to challenge tequila (naming no names). Others are a little more restrained, but still with the warming tingle of Christmas pudding and mulled wine.

A lengthy maturation, particularly in a large cask (e.g. ex-sherry), generally means more oxygen is allowed into the cask to react with the spirit and develop more complex flavours. These may include spicy flavours - lignin compounds break down over time, releasing more intense spicy notes into the spirit, while the high acidity and relatively low alcohol content of sherry often serve to bring out spicier notes from the cask wood. Clove and cinnamon flavours often derive from eugenols produced via toasting - that is, firing the wood of the casks over a medium heat for anything between 15 to 45 minutes (to be contrasted with charring, where the wood is fired for a very short time over a much hotter flame). Some of the most intense spicy flavours come not from the cask at all, but from the still: a lighter spirit (such as that produced in a tall still) will often have more kick than something more rounded.

Spicy characteristics are generally used to complement other strong flavours, such as dried fruit (e.g. Aberlour) or peat (Ardbeg), but the style is probably best showcased by the expansive and varied Highland region. Highland malts generally eschew excessive subtlety for bold and full flavours, and so often showcase strongly spicy styles. The best examples by far are in the Northern Highlands: Glenmorangie has a light spice that is perhaps better described as herbal; but a small distance to the north, Clynelish and Old Pulteney provide a salty, firey yet still sweet style that prickles all over the palate. Their eastern counterparts, such as Glen Garioch or Glendronach, retain a gingery warmth that it is not so much restorative as elixir.

The strength and spark of such potions pairs very well with similarly lively cigars: Partagas is an obvious match, as is Ramon Allones; but the peppery notes of a Cohiba or Bolivar will also go very well.

Honey

Treacle, toffee, caramel, heather

The sweetness of honey is one of the most common flavours in Scotch whisky…particularly in younger examples of the popular Speyside style that forms the basis of many of the most popular blends, but also in the Highlands and, perhaps most characteristically, the Lowlands. The Island whiskies, too, often express a honey-like sweetness in their lighter forms. This is usually the result of the natural sugars present in malted barley, and so is generally more apparent in younger whiskies (up to 15-18 years of age) before too much of heftier flavours like wood, spice or dried fruit are imparted from the cask.

A richer, toffee-like sweetness often derives from European oak casks (generally ex-sherry), while American oak (ex-bourbon or newer sherry casks) produces a lighter, vanilla-tinged flavour that complements the natural sugars of the barley. The marshmallow-like sweetness of bourbon often translates into a lighter honey-like flavour in Scotch matured in ex-bourbon casks.

Good examples of single malts that carry strong flavours of honey are the classic Glenlivet and its many Speyside brethren; the lightness and softness of Lowlanders Glenkinchie and Auchentoshan; and the heathery sweetness of younger Highland Parks or some Highlanders like Dalwhinnie or Glen Garioch. In addition, virtually all of the biggest names in blended whisky are marked by this kind of flavour - the house styles of Johnnie Walker, J&B and Chivas Regal all depend on that sweet, youthful Speyside core. All of them are likely to go well with lighter cigars, particularly those with sweet flavours of their own, such as Hoyo de Monterrey.

 

Salt

Brine, seaweed, cured meats, oil, vinegar

Any distillery tour guide will tell you of the importance of the environment for maturing whisky. After all, it takes only a couple of days to distill the spirit, but it will be slumbering in a warehouse for a minimum of three years, and often more like ten or twenty. The local environment is often described as a key factor in the particular flavour profile of any given distillery’s produce. For many, this may have more to do with romanticism than fact: but for those distilleries situated by the coast, it has a very real effect. When the waves of the tide lap against the warehouse walls, as they do at many distilleries from Islay to Orkney, the spirit inside can hardly help but absorb some of that sea air.

This explains the distinctively salty flavour present in many coastal drams. For some, such as Tobermory or Old Pulteney, the salinity forms one of the most immediately recognisable characteristics. For many of the peaty Islay whiskies, it mixes with the smoke to produce a very distinctive seaweed flavour, or notes of smoked ham and cured meat. In each case, it is unmistakeable, and absolutely unique - there is no comparable flavour in the world of wine, beer, cognac, bourbon or any other drink.

Although salty flavours are mostly associated with island whiskies (including but not limited to Islay), they may be found in many mainland distilleries located on the coast. The aforementioned Old Pulteney is one, as is neighbour Clynelish and perhaps Glenglassaugh; the Campbeltown region is also marked by a strong salinity. Some island drams are as notably lacking in salty flavours (e.g. Highland Park) as others are marked by it (Tobermory, Talisker).

The unusual savoury quality of such flavours make them a good counterpart to some of the more spicy or peppery cigars - Por Larrañaga or El Rey del Mundo might be good examples, while Cohiba and Partagas complement the bolder Islay styles very well.

 

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Clynelish 14 Year Old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

A 20cl bottle of this perennial favourite among connoisseurs. A thin reed of smoke...read more

Product Info

Clynelish 14 Year Old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

A 20cl bottle of this perennial favourite among connoisseurs. A thin reed of smoke winds between equal parts malt and toffee, with a little chocolate coming through - given time, the nose clarifies into the scent of rapeseed fields. Sharp, instant spice on the palate dries out the tongue, but the body is light, offering barley sugar, mint, maple syrup, lime, lemon drops, some red apple - it is subtler and sweeter than some other Clynelish expressions, piling layer upon layer of flavour with a building crescendo of spice. The finish presents lasting butterscotch and a little lime peel…but the whole thing is cloaked in candle wax and a unique mineral aspect - maybe leather, the metallic tang of copper coins on the finish. Once, merchants and Glaswegian gastronomists travelled the world in search of the finest and most refined spices, setting up trading posts and colonies all across the Caribbean, India and the West Indies. They needn’t have bothered: they could have found them all far closer to home, in any dram of Clynelish. Absolutely unique; outstanding; essential.

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