Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Clynelish 14 years & Famous Grouse 18 years

I like Friday afternoons.  The work week is nearly over and sometimes I can sneak over to the local pub for a quick nip before heading home.  I did just that today.  I called George, a friend, you will recall from past posts, who seems to always be available for a dram.  A friend in need is a friend indeed. 

Lunar Rogue Pub, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
We landed at the Lunar Rogue Pub and reached for the whisky menu.  Frank, the owner, is a scotch nut, and has about 250 whiskies on hand in the bar.  He sat down with us and we stared at the menu.  Decisions.  I suggested Famous Grouse 18 years, a vatted malt (blend of single malts only).  No objection from George.

Famous Grouse 18 years Blended Malt

I have been staring at this bottle for a while in the liquor store, but unable to pull the trigger and buy it because of the price.  In the back of my mind, I am wondering, is it worth it.  It is at a price point where I can buy a few 12 to 15 year old single malts that I know to be great.  So naturally, when the Lunar Rogue afforded me the opportunity to sample for about $7 a dram, I was sold.

As I mentioned above, the Famous Grouse 18 years is a blend of single malts.  No grain whisky here, and it shows.  A lovely blend of Macallan and Highland Park single malt whiskies.  The flavor is dark red fruits, excellent sherry of the Macallan and some spice and heather contributed by Highland Park.  A fine whisky.  There is some complexity of flavors and the sherry flavors are intense, but not over the top.  I recommend this one.  If you can get it on sale, it is definitely a bargain.  It outshines pretty much all 12 year old single malts I know.

Clynelish 14 years Single Malt Scotch

From the first sniff of the glass, we knew this was something special.  A nose of honey and melted caramel with citrus elements.  A tiny sip was entry to a sweet, aromatic, honey & a finely sherried, tropical fruit infused, delicate, heathered whisky.  It is spiced brown sugar and has a white cake bread element to it that is immensely pleasing.  Medium body that has a long, drying finish leaves the drinker satisfied with a whiff of smoke that tingles the nose and sherry lingering on the palate.  There is a waxiness to the mouthfeel of this single malt that is a rarity today.

George and I were really impressed with the Clynelish.  It outshined the Famous Grouse, and the Grouse was a good dram.  The price point for Clynelish 14 is reasonable.

The conversation quickly turned to how can we buy a bottle or two of the Clynelish, as it is not sold where we live.

Frank reminded us that a Distiller's Edition of the Clynelish will be sold at an upcoming whisky festival in our town (Fredericton, New Brunswick).  It will be a definite buy for all of us!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2010. All rights reserved.


  1. Hmm, the clynelish sounds interesting. Over here it's 31,95 euro's, which is the same as green label.
    Thanks for the tip.



  2. Boris, the Clynelish is really impressive. Based on my tasting, it is superior to Johnnie Walker Green Label. By the way, I believe Clynelish is a key single malt in Johnnie Walker Gold Label.

  3. Yes, the Clynelish is an important part of that blend and water hasn't been too plentiful, or certainly wasn't when I visited the distillery earlier this year. So even in Scotland its not the most available single malt. In saying that, I do have the same bottle and it an interesting waxy finish. The distillery also sells a cask strength version, which has a real kick!

  4. I picked up a bottle of the Cylenish 14 based on this review. After just several sampling over the weekend: Wow! I thought there was a distinct coconut component on the nose and the taste had wonderful balance with a hint of smoke, heather, and toast on the finish. I think this is my favorite single malt to date. It runs about $50 per bottle here, which I thought was very good for the quality.

  5. Mortal, I am glad my recommendation served you well! Clynelish is certainly pretty special stuff. I am going to a whiskey festival and they will have some Distiller's Edition on sale which I will be buying. Cant wait.

    $50 a bottle I think is a very reasonable price to pay.

    Simply fantastic scotch!


  6. Hi Jason,

    Just picked up a bottle. Not the 14 year old, but a 12 year old exclusive "friends of the classic malts" edition. 46%, non chill filtered etc. Which was recommended to me by the shopkeeper. He thought it superior to the 14 year old (hard to say as I haven't sampled it), and it didn't cost a lot more (44 euros) so I went for it.
    First impression is wonderfull, rich honeyed spice, but it's to early to be specific as I just opened the bottle.

    I was given a bottle of Springbank 15 year old by my brother and my first impression of that was good, but not great. However after a week of laying on the shelf and a bit more air it transformed into a trully great whisky, so can't wait to see how this one evolves.

    Anyway, thanks for the tip, a most welcome addition to the cabinet.

    Cheerz, Boris

  7. Boris, great to hear you like the Clynelish. I also have tried yet another bottling by this great distiller. It is a 1992 Distiller's Edition and I am just bowed over with delight. It is fantastic! Definitely will post the review shortly once I have a few tastings of it. Bottom line: Clynelish makes great scotch!

  8. Been working my way through a bottle of Famous Grouse 18 and the Macallan and Highland Park character are pretty obvious but that's not a bad thing. Since I like Macallan 18 and Highland Park 18 (but not the prices), it's amazing how well the two complement each other. Sure, one might want the single malts but this blend is a good value and flavor when you can't afford buying a bottle of both.

  9. Given a sample of the Cly 14 a couple of days ago... wasn't inspired I'm afraid Jason. I got the caramel and apple ok... but that was it. Maybe the too powerful hit on the nose turned me off.. and no real finish to speak of..... Possible bad bottle...?
    AL (from OZ)

    1. One of two things. Maybe the bottle had been open for ages and was oxidized to the point of ruining the flavor or maybe the bottle is not to your taste. I suspect the former.

      I was at a bar recently and had a double of Highland Part 12 and it tasted flat, uninspiring and limp. Not the HP I know so well. I asked the waitress how much of this do they sell and she said i am the only she can recall who ordered it. I gotta look at the bottle, and it was half empty and that told the story.

      So, reserve judgment friend until you can try a fresh bottle.


  10. I am sipping the Famous Grouse 18 as I am writing this and I am not impressed. I had high expectations: I mean 18 y.o. Macallan and Highland Park!!! I expected a lot, but I see why it cost so much less than the single malts.

    1. 18 yr old blends and 18 yr old single malts are different creatures. Nevertheless the FG 18 was at the time of this post a great whisky. FG has been tinkering a lot with their blends. Maybe the tinkering has not been great. The standard bottling used to be decent but as of late it has been very grainy. Maybe the 18 is going downhill a bit too.

  11. Jason, Could you provide a list of few more whiskies that you also found them stunning for their price? like the Clynelish 14?

  12. Truly stunning whiskies are far and few between sadly. I am really impressed with Hibiki 17, a Japanese whisky, that I consider to be one of the best whiskies I have ever had. Problem is availability.

    In terms of value for money proposition, I think the following exhibit great complexity at a reasonable price:

    Cragganmore 12 yrs

    Glenfiddich 15

    Glenlivet 18

    Glenmorangie 12 Nectar DO'r

    Canadian Club 20 yrs

    Ledaig 10 (but this is peaty, gentle peat)

    Anything by independent bottlers like hart Bros or Gordon and MacPhail.


  13. Enigmatic North Coast Highland. Briny, Spicy, Pepper, Wax.
    This one needs time to open. Be patient. Nose: RICH, barley, vanilla, very floral. Lavender and honey. A touch of briny peat. Palate: BIG, strong arrival of sweet biscuits, offset by brine. Citrus peels. Just a suggestion smoke and heathery peat. Spicy, pepper. Candle wax, dark cocoa. Faint soapiness in the palate. Fiery, medium mouthfeel. Strong flavors, it can take water. Finish: Shot, brine, wax, bitter lemon peels and pepper. Outstanding North Coast Highland scotch. Reminds me of Oban 14. Not for a novice. Underrated. This scotch is the character malt of JW 18 Gold and Compass Box Artist Blend. New favorite along with Bunnahabhain 12.