McClelland’s Islay Single Malt is a “mystery malt” (or bastard malt) that is put out by the Morrison Bowmore company who, as the name suggests, owns Bowmore which is an Islay Single Malt brand. Even though they have never said where the Islay juice comes from this connection has led many to believe, myself included, that it’s just young and undesirable barrels from Bowmore.
As a general rule I have nothing against NDP whiskies, because at the end of the day it’s all about the quality the brand sources and when it comes to McClelland’s that quality has always been lacking for me. Many NDPs, like Cadenhead’s, Cheiftan’s or Signatory, pride themselves on picking and bottling cherry casks. McClelland’s on the other hand seems to go the other route and bottle the barrels distilleries don’t want and then market them as cheap single malts, but even at their low prices I still feel ripped off after tasting what’s actually in the bottle.
McClelland’s Islay Single Malt Review
Bottler: Morrison Bowmore
An ambiguous sweetness comes up first followed by some smoked meat, peat and lots of vanilla. A light tropical fruit (banana heavy), a bit of melon, smoked fish and brine. Little hints of iodine, dried fruit, turmeric, char and a fairly strong alcohol burn give this an aroma that has promise, but gets beat down by the stronger funky notes.
All malt and no bite. Some light notes of vanilla, banana heavy tropical fruit, coconut, a little char, a little peat, a little smoke and a weird funk. The nose is vastly more complex than the palate with this whisky and that absence makes it feel like something is missing.
A light nutty character with some malt, banana, Nilla Wafers and weird funk. It’s mercifully short.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Everything feels off; like the whole thing is working against itself. The light and watery body makes it feel lifeless and simplistic giving it the texture of a ball bearing rolling around a track.
The nose is surprisingly agressive and comes off like a complex argument. The palate on the other hand is remarkably dead in comparison which leaves the finish to be the best part of this whisky and that’s not saying much. I’m convinced that Morrison Bowmore uses the McClelland brand as a dumping ground for undesirable barrels which they then overcharge for.