About This Dram
Just… wow. This is an example of taking a risk and it paying off immensely.
A little insight into how private stores order whisky here in BC. Unless you have an agent or sales rep giving you information about a product – you have to rely on the LDB wholesale database for information on what a product is. Sometimes, it’s simple – for example, it could be called “Laphroaig Quarter Cask”. Sometimes, especially for the independently bottled stuff it’s a little trickier to decipher. Luckily you can sometimes get more info on the “Produt Details” page. There’s a space for an image (I’ve never actually seen an image however), room for a short writeup (usually blank, or suuuper out of date, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a review from the 2007 Whisky Bible), and then some important warehouse information (items per case, container type, sku, agent, etc).
So why does this matter? Well, I did my daily scan of the LDB listing and saw something tantalizingly named “Clynelish – Flavour Limited Edition”. A quick google for that showed no results. They haven’t ever released something by this name. Interesting. I’ve had this happen before, where something has been given a nickname to keep its identity hidden. That one turned out to be Ardbeg Twentysomething! I check the product details. No picture, of course. No writeup, that figures. So the only info I had to go on was the warehouse info. I knew it wasn’t meant for the BCL stores, as it was stored in a “3rd Party Warehouse”. I knew it was a six-pack, which for the price it bloody well better be! And finally, and crucially, I knew it was registered by Diageo Canada. Bingo! It’s an official bottling!! This isn’t something we see very often at all in BC, so I was instantly excited. I called Rick White – Strath alumni, and now agent for Diageo in Victoria. He had no info on it, and nor could he seemingly get any.
So, I decided to take the risk and order a bottle. Why? Well, I knew that the welcome back tasting would be coming up soon, and it was on my bucket list to do a side-by-side of an official Clynelish and an official Brora (which also appeared in the warehouse at the same time). When delivery time came, I was so excited to see what would be inside the box – and when I finally saw that it was the 2015 release of the Select Reserve, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The gamble paid off, this was a whisky that I was VERY excited to try. And boy did it not disappoint…
Clynelish is a favourite of mine, and I’m not alone in that. Blenders in particular love to use it for its full-bodied waxy oily coastal flavours. It has a rather unfortunate origin story, being built as part of the Highland Clearances – but luckily it didn’t become profitable until it found new (and hopefully less evil) owners. This is Diageo blender Jim Beverage’s second and final version of the Select Reserve – and while it didn’t go over quite as well as the first with some online reviewers at the time, it is still talked about very fondly by several of Scotlands whisky elite. It’s a great example of “Non-Age Statement” whisky done right. This is almost definitely some super old Clynelish with some younger more oily malt blended in to give it that quintessential distillery character. In fact, there is a note in the little book included with the bottle that states that the youngest malt in the blend is 15 years of age. I have to say, giving a whisky of this quality a big “15 Years Old” branding would be a huge disservice.
The depth and complexity of the older malts make for a stunningly well-balanced and structured whisky that may well go unappreciated by the more casual whisky drinker. However, when presented to a room full of Dram Association Premium members at our epic “Dram – It’s Good To Be Back” tasting on the 11th and 22nd of July 2021 it definitely found its audience! If you missed that event, you can see my personal first impressions on the below “Unbottling” video.
Apples in a stationery cupboard, creamed manuka honey, wildflowers on the cliffs of the North Sea, pickled ginger, walnuts, jalapenos, lemon pledge, fast fret, olive oil, lemon drops, sherbet, bresaola, fresh bread, pear juice. The whisky was so varied and complex reviewers had a hard time categorizing this one, with a four-way tie between the four non-smoky profiles. In the end, I made the tiebreaking choice – after the orchard and floral honey notes became my lasting memory of it.