I am somewhat unusual, I gather, in having liked every Ben Nevis I’ve tried. It probably helps that I’ve tried very few. The last Cadenhead’s Small Batch I tried (Friday’s Auchentoshan 14) reversed a negative trend; I hope this Ben Nevis 17 won’t reverse a positive one. Let’s get right to it.
Ben Nevis 17, 1996 (55.2%; Cadenhead’s Small Batch; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split with friends)
Nose: Wood glue and musky fruit (apricots, a bit of stewed apple). Some raisins too and something vaguely savoury. Gets brinier as it sits. With time there’s some peppery melon a la some Littlemills I’ve tried. The fruit gets richer and richer with time and water gives it tropical accents on the nose as well.
Palate: Very much as on the nose at first with more toasted wood. But the fruit is much richer and deeper. Once again, shockingly drinkable at full strength. On the second sip there’s more toasted wood and roasted malt shading into mocha/bittersweet chocolate. Much later there’s a lot of brown sugar along with the roasted malt and some vanilla too; and some peach jam to go along with the apricot. With a lot of time (more than an hour) and water the tropical fruit that was earlier showing up only on the finish arrives much earlier. And I may be imagining it but there’s a lick of smoke now too.
Finish: Medium-long. The fruit gets more and more tropical on the way out and the toasted wood and bitter notes frames it nicely.
Comments: This is really rather nice. 17 yo cask strength whisky of this quality for less than $100 (at least where I bought it in MN)? Get a bottle today.
Rating: 88 points.