Andy Gemmell’s Drinks Cabinet
Clynelish Distillery Brora Sutherland
History: Clynelish Distillery can be found on the east coast of Sutherland, a one-hour drive north of Inverness. The original distillery was built here in 1819, a fact that makes it one of the oldest distillery sites in Scotland. The name was later changed to The Brora Distillery, from 1969 until 1983, before being demolished. The Brora Distillery produced a heavily peated (smoky) whisky predominately for blended Scotch. A new, modern Clynelish Distillery was built on the site in 1968, and today it produces The Clynelish Single Malt. It is owned by spirit giants Diageo, who own more than 25 of the distilleries in Scotland.
The whisky: Clynelish Distillery produces a fruity, waxy, slightly smoky single malt that has been a cult classic amongst whisky fanatics for many years. Since the first release of their official expression in 2003, Clynelish was so popular that only private clients could be supplied direct from the distillery, with no bars or shops able to place orders.
Favourite dram: There are many independent bottlings of Clynelish that are outstanding. It’s one of the most soughtafter whiskies. For me, its most popular expression, the 14-year-old, is one of my favourite single malts, with beautiful floral and orange notes and a wonderful spicy finish. You can pick up a bottle for around £45 if you are lucky. If you are into your single malt then it’s well worth researching some of the private bottlings that have been released over the years, especially from the Signatory Vintage whisky company. Geek alert: The spirit produced here is one of the main whiskies used in the world’s best-selling blended Scotch, Johnnie Walker. A blended Scotch whisky has many different single malts in its recipe (sometimes up to 40 single malts in one blend) but the blenders always have their favourites that help them achieve the flavour profile they are looking for.
Why visit? While this might not be one of the most traditionally beautiful distilleries in Scotland, in my opinion it is well worth visiting just to taste the whisky that is produced here. Great tours are offered throughout the year. The Taste Of Clynelish tour costs £12 and gives you a guided tour and tasting of Clynelish 14-year-old – Clynelish Distillery’s only cask strength bottling – and Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve, which is great value for money. There are also more in-depth tours for those who are really into their single malt. As always, it is worth calling ahead to book before travelling, if have decided to make the journey.
Interesting fact: Clynelish was part of the original lineup of Diageo’s Classic Malt range. Introduced in 1988, the Classic Malts comprise a small selection of whiskies that showcase the range of flavours available in single Scotch whisky. The whiskies are taken from Diageo’s portfolio, all chosen to showcase the different flavour and aroma profiles of single malt whiskies from smoky, sweet, rich, and light, with everything in between.
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