I want you to think about why I have the 1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years and the 2015 Diageo Special Release Brora 37 years together in the image above. If you’re a bonafide whisky geek you understood what was going on even before reading this. If you’re not a bonafide whisky geek, and there’s nothing wrong with that, allow me to explain.
Back in 1819 a scrappy little distillery named Clynelish was born. It closed, re-opened and changed owners several times and then in 1968 it was closed because a new Clynelish (#2) was opened right across the street from it. Less than a year later it was opened again but it could no longer use the name Clynelish so its name was changed to Brora. Under the name Brora, Clynelish #1 pumped out peated whisky, which has become legendary whisky, from 1969 – 1983 when it was closed for the last and final time.
The whisky in this bottle of 1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years was distilled sometime between 1958 – 1967 which means it was distilled at Clynelish #1 before it was called Brora. Which also means it was back before the distillery was pumping out peated whisky and is a representation of the original whisky that flowed from its still; a true snapshot of distilling history.
1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years Info
Region: Highland, Scotland
Distiller: Clynelish 1 (Brora)
Mashbill: 100% Malted Barley
Age: 12 years
Price: N/A – Auctions and private collectors
1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years Review
Funky fruit, watery malt, worn out wood and a light bit of oily hay.
Watery caramel, malt, fruit and hay with a light bit of old wood, lemon peels and a floral touch.
Short and heavy with that tired wood character and layered with light bits of watery caramel and malt.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Not well balanced, thin body and a weak watery feel.
This 1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years is a weak, watery and flat from start to finish. Distilled at the famed Clynelish #1 (Brora) we pulled it out from the LAWS reserve bar to taste next to the 2015 Diageo Special Release Brora 37 at a recent meeting. We broke this one out specifically because it was distilled sometime before the 1968 closure and 1969 re-opening which means it was a wholly un-peated whisky. Though even without the peat they couldn’t have been more different in overall character.
While the 1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years was flaccid and uneventful the Brora 37 was crisp and dynamic. True the Brora was bottled at cask strength while this was 80 proof, but the essential character of the two whiskies were on vastly different ends of the scale. Which made the point of tasting the 1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years and Brora 37 side by side abundantly clear: every distillery is capable of putting out good whisky and bad whiskey – even the ones that have been posthumously deified.
SCORE: 73-76/100 (C, not consumed at home)
1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years Review - Score Breakdown
- Nose - 73
- Palate - 73
- Finish - 73
- Balance, Body & Feel - 73
1970s Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12 Years is not a good whisky and I feel like I did a public service in killing the bottle and removing it from this world. It might have been a “Brora”, but it wasn’t a particularly good one.