Colour: The 2004 is about one shade darker at old gold than the 1996 at jonquiripe corn. The texture of the 2004 shows very slow legs and fat sticky tears what is basically the same as with the 1996 (by the way, a very fine oiliness).
Nose: The 2004 offers a delicate nose on fruity, barley and honey aromas with some hints of peat. Subtle and without any flaw in a close-to-perfection mix. The 1996's nose is much bolder with additional leathery and beeswax notes. So the choice is between a perfect delicate and a bold somewhat "dirty" nose - this clearly depends on the mood you are in. Pre-dinner I prefer the 2004 and the 1996 later in the evening. I go for a draw.
Initial mouthfeel: The 2004 arrives instantly coating on the palate without any distracting moment at all. The 1996 is about the same with some minor peppery feelings. Again I go for a draw.
Taste: The 2004 has a very complex profile that is elegant and multi-layered. It is perfectly balanced and very, very delicious (except you prefer the "punch the flavours in your mouth" profiles). I can literally explore such a taste for hours and it is really flabbergasting to experience such a complex profile in a 12-years old. The 1996 owns a more "punchier" profile on cooked fruits, barley sugars and chocolate notes. But the 2004 is truly outstanding "lecker" (delicious) and dangerously quaffable - so it takes this round easily.
Finish: The 2004 simply extends the fantastic taste into a long finish without any off-note or distracting moment. Simply great! The 1996 adds more spicy wooden notes to the finish that are very welcomed but it is much simplier than that of the 2004. Again, the 2004 takes this round.
Water is not needed on both drams - they are best at the offered drinking strength of 46% abv.
This 2004 G&M bottling is a nice surprise and one of the purest and most delicate drams I had since years. It is absolutely faultless (to me) and a great example to experience a Scotch whisky that is perfectly produced. Congrats to the Clynelish staff on that! And if you adore such delicate and subtle drams like I do - go for it. You still find it for small bucks at many shops - it is a bargain, I promise!
PS: All the lovers of the modern designed "punchy" whisky styles should shy away from this bottling, there is neither an "oompf" nor an obvious "WOW" effect in this bottling besides its elegance and perfection...