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Whisky Reviews

Secret Highland (Clynelish) 2000, 19 Year Old, bottled for The Writing Club 3rd Anniversary, 52.4% ABV



The Writing Club is a small whisky bar in Singapore that has close partnerships with Valinch & Mallet, The Whisky Agency and Wilson & Morgan. Every year they do 2-3 cask picks. Their picks are often interesting -- including a fantastic 16yo 2002 Cooley with loads of white chocolate; a 12yo Craigellachie replete with Japanese senbei crackers and miso; a fun 10yo Tamnavulin that tastes more than a little like sweet, yeasty rice yoghurt (or sake, as the co-owner reckons, which is an excellent shout); 7yo Indiana bourbon with lovely apple cider flavours and a bright Jura full of key lime curd. This is a Clynelish that stops just short of 20 years of age, and distilled right at the turn of the millennium. It is I think my favourite pick yet from them:

Distillery: Clynelish

Region: Highland

Price: ~250USD but stocks are nearly gone.

Cask Type: Ex-bourbon hogshead

ABV: 52.4%

Chill-filtered: No

Color: 0.2, pale staw (natural colour).

Poured into a nosing glass (strictly speaking not a Glencairn) after opening for 30 minutes, then left for another 20 minutes before being drunk neat. Shoulder pour.

Nose: Beguiling! Japanese musk melon-scented wax tablets, watermelon milk, green apples, pears, hint of raspberry and lime syrup but also a tiny bit of meatiness, like brown butter and chicken jus, just lingering in the background.

Palate: Well-integrated alcohol with medium texture. Waxiness doesn't quite show here as much, nor would I call it creamy, but something in between like a clarified milk punch with a whiff of whey. I also get honeydew, rhubarb cordial, beetroot cordial and a touch of minerality like slate.

Finish: Medium-to-long, flavours declines gradually and gracefully. Wax like in the nose reappears, again more wax tablet than paraffin. There is a whetting, green herbal edge: shiso, blackberry leaf, rock melon rind and just a bit of the beetroot again. The herbality is never overly bitter, puckering or unpleasant.

Conclusion: After nosing and dramming this, the owner of the bar and I agreed that this was a great example of a transitional Clynelish -- in between the gloriously crystalline and powerful wax of the 1995 vintage and the waxless but lactic 2006/2007 stuff. The alcohol integration is so good it never occurred to me to add water. I was also quite transfixed by the development of the dram neat. I have nosed the bar's open bottle and the melon-scented wax tablets are just ramped up to another level with oxidation. Indeed, the nose was enough for me to buy a bottle (the price was also favourable considering local taxes, overheads and the going rate for late 90s-2000 Clynelish of any decent age now in 2023). I rated a G&M 15yo first-fill sherry single cask Clynelish from 2006 highly for being a rich, creamy and sweet strawberry gelato bomb. This, to my tastes, is the clear winner over that younger dram for subtlety, originality and complexity. It is a dram for all seasons.

Score: 93

If it were named by the SMWS: Melon Musk