Clynelish is a large and modern distillery in the north Highlands of Scotland. It is located in the picturesque coastal village of Brora and owned by Diageo. The name is little known as a brand outside of whisky drinking circles. But it plays a highly influential role for a certain very famous whisky - Clynelish single malt is one of the main ingredients in the Johnnie Walker blended whisky range. In fact, 95% of all the single malt produced there will eventually be used for this purpose. This makes it an important and strategic distillery for Diageo.
Clynelish is know for being a robust and very delicately peated style of single malt. This is often described as having a waxy and oily feel by whisky drinkers. This is an unusual description for a whisky so has led to Clynelish gaining a cult following. The waxiness has the effect of coating the mouth and gripping the taste buds, and comes through in the few single malt releases that are available. But it also adds incredible texture and structure when included in a blend.
Clynelish is one of Diageo's largest and most modern distilleries. A recent upgrade was completed in mid-2017 and this expanded the production capacity to 4.8 million litres per year. New equipment was installed within the buildings that date from the late-1960s. This included a huge mash tun, 10 fermentation washbacks (two made of stainless steel and eight of wood) and three new pairs of copper pot stills. It has also made Clynelish one of the most eco-friendly distilleries in Scotland. The distillery also has warehouse space for 6,000 casks to be matured on the site.
The current Clynelish was built and began production in 1967. It was built next to and shared a site with another distillery - Brora. Since then, the history of the two distilleries has remained unavoidably combined. Both distilleries operated in tandem from that point. To avoid any confusion the new distillery was known as Clynelish A with the old distillery as Clynelish B. These unromantic names continued for two years. In 1969 the decision was taken to simply call the new distillery Clynelish and rename the older distillery as Brora.
Clynelish had been founded in 1819 by The Marquis of Stafford in the Highland coastal village of Brora. This is 58 miles and just over one hour's drive north of Inverness. It closed in March 1983 due to difficult times within the Scotch whisky industry. Many thought it lost to whisky history forever. This is until plans to rebuild and reopen it were announced by owners Johnnie Walker in 2017. They aim to begin production for the first time in almost four decades by late-2021.
In addition to the recent production upgrade, there is also going to be a new visitor centre at Clynelish. This is designed to bring more tourists and whisky fans to the north Highlands. It forms part of Diageo's wider Johnnie Walker 'Four Corners of Scotland' brand home project. This sees four of their distilleries that are heavily used in the best-selling blended Scotch range being redesigned to tell the Johnnie Walker story. The other three distilleries are Cardhu (Speyside), Caol Ila (Islay) and Glenkinchie (Lowlands). Clynelish's new visitor centre will boast a bar, tasting room and views over the north Highland coast. It will also include a history of the distillery experience and its inherent links to the Johnnie Walker brand.