Founded in 1819, under the name Clynelish, the distillery was established by the Marquis of Stafford who, after marrying into the Sutherland family, became the first Duke of Sutherland. The distillery was initially intended to take some proportion of local whisky supply away from the area's smuggling fraternity.
After purchase in 1896 by James Ainslie & Heilbron, a Glasgow-based blending company, the distillery was rebuilt and still retains the floor maltings and kiln that were then installed. In 1967, a build commenced on a new distillery, also named Clynelish, located just across the road from the original Clynelish. The build was completed a year later and the former Clynelish distillery was renamed Brora (pronounced "Broar-err") in 1969. The name derives from the Old Norse "Bru'r aa" meaning "the bridges river".
Brora was purchased in 1930 by Scottish Malt Distillers, who later became a subsidiary of Diageo. Closing in May of 1983, the buildings that made up the Brora distillery are now used by the new Clynelish distillery as a visitor centre and warehouse.
In 2002, Clynelish finally released an official bottling, the 14 Year Old, after being used mostly as a 'volume' malt whisky for blending. Additionally, 2010 saw a 12 year old expression of Clynelish released for the "Friends of the Classic Malts" range.
Diageo announced a £30m expansion of Clynelish in 2014, but the plan was postponed. However, a year-long refurbishment was finally completed in June 2017, during which time the distillery was out of action. It now boasts 10 washbacks and three pairs of stills in the new still room, producing 4.8 million litres of alcohol per week.
Nose: Zesty, mandarin, tangerine. Smoky.
Palate: Quite light, great clarity. Orange, soft acidity. Dry oak. Mixed fruits, vanilla, leather.
Finish: Quite long, bitter sweetness developing, spicy oak.