Clynelish 1989/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Marsala Finish)

This will be interesting. Experience learns me that I have tasted a lot of good Clynelishes from 1989, although one might ask oneself how far vintages work for Whisky as they do with Wine. An other interesting point is, although todays Wine finishes are quite common, back in 2003, when this was released, Wine finishes weren’t all that hip. Remember that the demand for Whisky was a lot less than it is today, so the sentiment, back then was, if it’s finished in an odd cask (not Bourbon or Sherry), than there must have been something wrong with the original Whisky. This has been finished, by the bottlers, in a cask that previously held Marsala Wine. Marsala is a fortified Wine from Sicily Italy. Marsala can be dry or sweet, and can be white or red, or something in between. Just like Sherry and Port which also comes in lots of different versions, so the word Marsala alone only narrows it down a bit what to expect. It would have been nice to know exactly what kind of Marsala was in the cask. No surprise that we have an “early” experiment with a Wine finish, since Fabio (the man behind Wilson & Morgan) is Italian and already a Wine buff before getting interested in Whisky and Rum. Remember Rum Nation? That’s also his.

By the way, there are other 1989 W&M Clynelishes around. At least one Sherry and one Bourbon expression exist as well. Just look at the bottom right corner of the front label. By the way I have tried this Bourbon expression and it wasn’t as good as other 1989 Clynelishes. Maybe the reason for finishing this one.

clynelish-1989-wm-marsala-finishColor: Gold.

Nose: Dry, restrained and not “thick”. Elegant. Well balanced. Lightly fruity and appetizing. Peaches. Nutty and dusty. Pushed way back some notes of creamy vanilla, so I’m guessing American oak, and probably the previous maturation was done in a Bourbon cask. Don’t be fooled, a lot of Sherries are matured in American oak as well, since it gives off a more creamy, vanilla feel, whereas European oak has more tannins to it. Next some spicy notes. Hints of sweetish basil. Nice one to smell and in no way does the Marsala overpower the Whisky. Fabio was on to something here, and maybe the Clynelish itself wasn’t too bad as well? Hints of dusty dark (friendly) cocoa powder. Good. Give it some time to breathe and the nose does show it has some origins in Wine, but still in a very restrained manner. Hints of Calvados even.

Taste: At first some wood, dusty and spicy but soon a wave of utter fruit passes by, although the fruity sweetness is almost nonexistent, the initial sip has definitely some sweetness to it. Nutty and nice. It has some fruity acidity though, not much but it does help the balance. Two distinct layers after which the finish sets in. A pretty good Whisky with a nicely done finish. It is a treat on entry and has a nice balanced body. The finish has some moderate staying power, and is easily the weakest point of this Malt. It doesn’t have enough length, and is actually not very complex. luckily the rest of the experience is very positive, so definitely a malt one can enjoy. I guess this experiment can be called a success.

The middle has some heat to it so the 46% ABV seems appropriate. I can be easily disappointed when a Whisky has been reduced too much, but I’m also easy in admitting that reductions often work out. In this case I’m not wondering how a cask strength version would have been. I’m happy as it is.

Points: 86

Ardbeg 1999/2012 ‘Galileo’ (49%, OB, ex-Marsala and ex-Bourbon Casks, 15.000 bottles)

And here is Ardbeg. Last of the Islay whiskies to feature on Master Quill. The first Ardbeg is also the last one being released. Ardbeg Galileo. A Whisky that in part was matured in Marsala Casks.

Ok, two difficult words. Marsala? Galileo?

Marsala is a Sicilian red wine which mostly is sold for export as an fortified wine. Port and Sherry are also fortified wines. By the way, the Sicilians themselves drink it as… well a normal wine. We all know the Whisky market is booming, but the Sherry market isn’t. We also know that Sherry Butts and Puncheons made of european oak, are the best casks for maturing Whisky, and that good cask are getting scarse, because we, the consumer, don’t like Sherry too much. Sherry casks made of American wood, but foremost other casks, like Marsala, are used to see if they work.

Galileo Galilei was born on February 15th, 1564 and departed from this earth on the 8th of January, 1642. Galileo was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution [Wikipedia]. In the case of Ardbeg, Galileo was best known as an astronomer.

This bottling also commemorates the fact that Ardbeg is part of an Whisky experiment in space. On ISS some Ardbeg (and I guess it’s not the Galileo Whisky) in MixStixs are subject to experimentation on the topic of molecular maturation. (Can we mature whisky more quickly and thus make more money, by maturing it in space or at zero gravity? Or am I just being negative?)

Color: Reddish Gold

Nose: Obviously Peat and a lot of smoke. Non fishy, yet clean and almost industial smelling peat. Winey and wine related ash. Flowery and fresh wall paint. Sweet caramels, dried apricots and a hint of peaches on syrup.

Taste: Sweet. Ashy again. Wood and winey and a quick sour note. A little bit of liquorice and foffee. It actually tastes the same as it smells. Strange unbalanced soury finish with the cold contents of an ashtray and some mint lateron. There is not a lot happening in the finish. Astonishingly simple and short. The wine brings a sort of sourness that is all over the palate and isn’t doing the probably standard bourbon casked Ardbeg any good.

I hate to say it, but aren’t “Ardbeg” putting more money into marketing than in the actual Whisky? Don’t get me wrong, I love Ardbeg, just look at my top 25. Alas, this isn’t my Ardbeg anymore. It became some kind of hype, a brand, a handbag. It’s not bad, but I’m gonna pass on this. It makes my head spin.

I haven’t had any Marsala on it’s own yet, but tasting this Ardbeg, Marsala should be closer to Port than it is to Sherry. When using Marsala casks, don’t overdo it please!

Points: 82