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Clynelish 18 yo (1997/2015, Wilson & Morgan, 53,3%)

Hi, I’m Bela Bartok!

Last year an Italian bottler took the silver medal at the Best Whisky award at the Milan Whisky Festival and, a few months later, the bronze medal at the Malt Maniacs Awards: you know, we move fast as a sloth, responsive as a crippled hippopotamus and on time as a bus in Rome, so we get to put our noses and jaws on it just today. Better late than never, says someone, better sooner than later, says the other one. Anyway, we like to remember how the above mentioned bottling is just an eighteen year old Clynelish, selected by Wilson & Morgan from Treviso. The peculiarity is that it is a wine-finish in Tokaji, a very sweet sweet sweet wine that comes from the lands of Béla Bartok – and the hope is that the result is worthy of a string quartet by the same.

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N: not alcoholic at all. First of all, we have a distinct note of grated coconut. It happily recalls Christmas baskets of dried fruit, but also Moroccan pastries, rich in honey. Very ripe orange, dehydrated apricots and milk chocolate, pecan nuts. The sweetness is impressive and reminiscent of bourbon, but we still have the complexity of a Scotch. Of course Clynelish’s soul is transfigured here, with little or no minerality, but this new creature is not bad. Nutmeg.

P: let’s start with a devastating coconut, both dry and baked, and ripe orange. Moreover, always perfectly consistent with the nose, the pecan nuts and the dried and jammed apricots come back. The fortified sweetness of Tokaji is total. But then it comes what you do not expect: from all this concert of delicacies emerges a peaty note, stubbornly mineral, which we recognize as a strenuous testimony of the soul of the distillate. And perhaps it’s precisely this wriggle that rebalances the whole thing, to make a very particular dram sustainable.

F: ripe orange and apricot, strawberry jam. A sweetness still ‘bourbony’ but again blunted by a peaty suggestion. Rather unique.

Even if it is extreme, actually it has no real defects: the experiment is certainly borderline, and if we hadn’t known that Clynelish was involved, we would never have been able to guess it. And yet the experiment was fully successful, if it is true that we drank it with great, great satisfaction. It may not be a daily dram, but it has intense and unique notes we don’t want to blame: 89/100 is the verdict for an excellent whisky.

Recommended soundtrack: Béla Bartok – String Quartet n.5.

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