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Highland malt 24 yo “The waxy one – 100th whisky” (1996/2020, Valinch & Mallet, 48,5%)

valinch-mallet-highland-malt-24yo

When Fabio calls and says “for the 100th bottling of Valinch & Mallet we have a Clynelish” (which, you know, can’t be written on the label – so here’s ‘The Waxy’), how can you say no? We celebrate the hundredth star on the chest of Fabio Ermoli and Davide Romano by sabering the bottle a minute after closing the door of the house, so please bear with us if we keep this introduction a bit short. We need to testify to a fleeting stay in a second-fill PX cask.

valinch-mallet-highland-malt-24yo

N: a certainly atypical nose, which smells of iodine and ‘bottarga di muggine’ (google it if you don’t know what it is), then a hint of brass, stock cube, pork fat. There is indeed this umami hint, constantly evolving, iridescent and unique. That brass note makes us think of an old-time whisky, of certain malts forgotten in the cellar that come back to life 30 years later, transfigured and polished – but in that case the metallic note is a defect, a sign of oxidation, here instead it completes an exciting profile. But the character of the spirit is clear and marked, with Barbour wax (rather than candle wax), and some cut wild flowers. A nice warm yellow apple, and orange honey, testifying to a fruity side that’s becoming more and more prominent with time. The development is complex indeed, between sea, a light thread of peat, and an oily sensation. Ground cacao bean. A veil of muscovado sugar, which is perhaps actually honey… What an elegance – a decadent elegance, we would say.

P: the abv seems perfect, it is oily, full-bodied. We witness the explosion, the synthesis of all the tropical fruits of the world – and we just didn’t see them coming. Ex multis, certainly, mango – but also ripe papaya, and then melon. Here, too, a sensation of 70s whisky, with nuances of smoke, peat, alembic, hydrocarbon: oily and layered, very complicated, structured and complete. The elegance and roundness are there, but they are deeply ‘Highlands’, with a dirty livery and a lived-in air. Creamy and malty, with a memory of the raw material that becomes more and more evident with time – digestive biscuits. Honey, again. Then more salt, pepper, liquorice. Guys, incredible.

F: medium long, still oily, with mango, salt, and a cathedral feeling: it leaves us with the smoke of a blown-out candle. Splendid, and really very long.

There’s no way around it: it really is an excellent whisky. The thing that strikes us most is that sense of ‘old-fashioned whisky’, but already aged for 20 years in the bottle, as it showed some OBE hints! As is almost always the case, the most unmentionable distillery in the Highlands gives us an incredible sensory experience, with notes of tropical fruit and brass in equal measure, notes of animal fat and honey, wax (albeit little, compared to other Clynelish) and melon… Very complex, really very good: compared to other more austere bottlings from the same distillery, this remains softer, more seductive, velvety, and surely the contribution of the PX refill is felt… but it is a tired seduction, a decadent softness. Adorable. 93/100.

Recommended soundtrack: Grinderman – Mickey Mouse & The Goodbye Man.

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