clynelish handfill 2009 200th anniversary 1998 20yo

Clynelish 2009 Hand-filled & 200th Anniversary Edition (2019)

So apparently Diageo is going to introduce more opportunities for us whisky enthusiasts to bottle our own whiskies at their distilleries. Also, from what I’ve heard, they’ll be more lenient when it comes to taking photographs inside their distilleries. Better late than never – overall this is very good news of course.

During the inaugural Highland Whisky Festival, Clynelish was one of the first Diageo distilleries benefitting from this policy. They introduced a 10-year old Handfill from a first-fill bourbon hogshead. I’m curious to find out which distillery is next. Has anyone heard of or seen another handfill opportunity at a Diageo distillery? Mortlach not included – that was a Spirit of Speyside thing.

To top it off, a very special Clynelish was also released last month. The distillery celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. I mean, officially it is Brora (the original Clynelish distillery) that turns two centuries old, but that’s semantics, I guess. Either way, a 20-year old Clynelish was (or still is?) available at the distillery, matured in Bodega sherry casks and refill American oak casks.

Clynelish 2009 10 Years Old (57.3%, OB, C#303029)

Nose: Lots of vanilla (LOTS), but also zesty lemon and winegums, with a touch of honey and burlap. Pretty lively, with a soft spiciness. Water brings out more of a classic beeswax-y profile, with green apples and stone fruits.
Taste: Creamy stuff with a fairly spicy arrival (cloves and chili pepper), followed by a fair amount of vanilla, and a touch of resin. Water brings out an interesting hoppiness, a whiff of lemon and chalkiness as well.
Finish: Lingering spices, lemon. Medium in length.

Score: 82

Clynelish 20 Years Old (57.3%, OB, 1819 bts.)

Nose: Thick notes of beeswax with a whiff of ozone and soft fruits in the background. Some orange peel, definitively a bit of strawberry too, and a touch of galia melon as well. The sherry influence is subtle, leaving room for that classic Clynelish profile to shine. Not the most complex, but very balanced.
Taste:  Lovely earthy, sherried and waxy dram. There’s a good amount of farminess here too, and even the lightest of touches of charcoal and smoke. A whiff of menthol, some leather and tobacco leaves, with a touch of maraschino cherries, but also a chalkiness and minerality that is classic Clynelish.
Finish: Soft spices, and more of the same.

Score: 90


That 10-year old Handfill swims remarkably well. For me, water is even required here (don’t be shy), as it drowns out the overt vanilla and spiciness, and makes room for other aromas and flavours to shine. With water, I find this in the 86 point range, without it’s closer to 80.

The Clynelish 20yo 200th Anniversary is of another level altogether. Clynelish and sherry isn’t always the best of combinations, except for the few rare occasions when there’s a balance between spirit and cask. That is absolutely the case here. Lovely whisky and worthy of celebrating 200 years of this iconic distillery!

Thanks to Dirk for the samples and the photo!

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