Andy Gem­mell’s Drinks Cab­i­net

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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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