1995 was inarguably a purple patch year for Clynelish – and Signatory Vintage seem to have snaffled up the lion’s share of the casks for their Cask Strength Collection. Drawn primarily from refill sherry butts, these 95’s are well-regarded and in high demand. This example bottled for TWE’s 20th Anniversary has been matured for 23 years in refill sherry butt #11252 before being bottled at 55.4% ABV. It’s available from The Whisky Exchange for £155.
Nose: The sherry influence is immediate, delivering fine brown sugars, reduced hedgerow berries, plums, raisins and sultanas. Deeper - singed toffee, hot cross buns and chocolate croissants are joined by Turkish delight, polished furniture and well-tanned leather. Less waxy, more lacquered. The addition of water brings blackcurrants and figs to the party whilst Jamaican ginger cake and tobacco are joined by old orange liqueurs.
Taste: Bold and concentrated with much more of the Clynelish-y texture and weight on display. Orange segments, blackberry jam and raspberry coulis with demerara sugar, dark chocolate, Black Forest gateaux and of course, candle and bees waxes. The development takes things profounder with dusty root ginger, leather armchairs, mentholated oak and some umami meatiness before a pang of sweetness from redcurrant jelly and chopped walnuts. Reduction retains the textural mouthfeel, but introduces a lovely softness to the affair – silky, palate-gliding, near-oily. It brings with it spent tobacco, coffee grounds and some dry sherry rancio.
Finish: Long with cherries, tree blossom, and dusty wood panelling before spices (ginger, cinnamon and pepper) fade around the back of the mouth.
Not quite as definitively Clynelish in overall style as other 95’ Signatories I’ve sampled – here there more refill sherry butt action. Nevertheless, this is still wonderfully compelling. The rich, reduced fruits and sugars sit exceptionally well with Clynelish’s versatile and textural spirit, whilst a high quality butt has offered both a top layer of sherry, as well as some well-aged sophistication. Two final thoughts – the price of these 95s has been steadily creeping up – irrespective this won’t sit on the shelves long at all. Move fast.