The new Clynelish Distillery opened in 1968, the same year as the new mechanical floor maltings opened at Glen Ord further south and which could supply the vastly increased quantities of very lightly peated (<1ppm) barley required for the production from the 6 large stills here. We have already seen the change in distillery names and the other changes at the original Clynelish/Brora Distillery but the two really need to be considered together so let’s continue in Claire’s company before I return to Barnard’s list.
|Still House at the new Clynelish|
The stills are all larger that the old Clynelish stills but retaining the same shape, including the reflux bowls on the neck. Uniquely (perhaps) the wash stills are slightly smaller (25,060 litres) than the spirit (26,241). The long lyne arms are almost horizontal on the wash stills but drop around 20 degrees on the spirit before reaching tube condensers inside the still house. There is a fairly long distillation time on the spirit stills totalling 12 hours with a middle cut of around 5 hours, lots of reflux being developed in the process.
Output has now reached 4.2m litres p.a. after those 2 new washbacks were installed and production went to 7 days a week in 2008. From one of the smallest outputs in Scotland when Barnard visited the old distillery, Clynelish now has one of the largest. The spirit is transported to Diageo’s central Scotland operations for casking but there are over 6,000 casks stored in those long warehouses at Clynelish.
|Brora and Clynelish Warehouses|
The distillery symbol on the OBs is a wildcat, a protected species that still roams wild in the highlands around here. A wildcat also appears in the Sutherland Clan Crest so the symbol on the bottle reflects the distillery heritage as well. The standard distillery bottle is a 14yo which is part of the second wave of whiskies to join Diageo’s Classic Malts range. They also produce a Distiller’s Edition bottling at 1 year older having been double matured in Oloroso Seco casks, and a distillery only bottle of cask strength whisky matured only in American Oak.
|Wildcat logo on label and jugs; mirror behind from James Ainslie & Co, owner from 1896|
Don’t rush to them thar hills with yer hillbilly gold pan though; the returns are slim at best from hours and hours of standing in highland streams where you are more likely to catch a cold than nuggets of gold. You might be better off investing in some old bottles of Brora, not that I’d recommend that either (yer mileage may vary, or some other legal cop out) but I would definitely recommend tasting some if you can. The annual release of a limited number of 30yo bottles regularly impresses and the 2004 release I sampled at The Gathering in Edinburgh in 2009 was exceptionally complex and flavoursome.
|Brora Distillery, 1930s - backdrop to one of the best whisky tastings I have ever enjoyed|
Claire pointed out that the distillery bicentenary will come round in 2019 and 6 special casks of Clynelish from 1998 are being held to bottle a 21yo then. What she didn’t mention was that the same year will be the 50th anniversary of Brora commencing its peaty production! What are the odds on 6 casks of that first nectar also being available then? Standing in a cold stream panning for gold while fighting off wildcats is not conducive to surviving the next 8 years to find out, so I think instead I will try to preserve myself by way of their fine whisky available now.