As the whisky bubble continues to inflate and prices for malts from established names (and also some not very established ones) rise higher and higher, we are going to see the independents bring more and more single casks from previously second and third tier distilleries to market. This is not a particularly original insight/forecast—a lot of people have made it. Not a lot of people would have said some years ago, however, that Ben Nevis might be poised for an image makeover—the official malt has always been idiosyncratic. I have a theory though that its profile is going to rise. For one thing, the owners seem to be releasing more of it (and asking good money for some of it); for another, I think as more and more sherried Ben Nevis shows up it is going to win whisky geeks over.
Having said all that, I hope this 15 yo from Gordon & Company will not make me swallow my words. But to my point above, as per Whiskybase, Gordon & Company’s outturn so far is almost entirely from the less fashionable distilleries (see also my recent review of their Ardmore 25, 1988).
Ben Nevis 15, 1997 (51.8%; cask #45; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Quite fresh at first with oranges and dark honey and light caramel. Some pine/wood extract behind those notes. With more time the citrus gets a little brighter and the wood gets more waxed and polished. With another five minutes gone it’s richer with some apricot jam as, cherry glaze well as some other muskier fruit. Slightly gamy too now (iron/blood). With a lot more time it’s a lot stickier (dates and a hint of fig reduction). With a drop of water it’s all lemon and honey and shortbread.
Palate: Leads with bright citrus followed by the wood (a little oakier here) and spicier notes than were on the nose. Begins to move in a slightly tropical direction as I swallow. Similar story on the second and third sips, with the wood getting sappier. I wonder if water might release the fruit that seems to be just below the surface. Well, water brings out a lot of lemon but no other fruit; alas, it also brings out a metallic quality.
Finish: Long. The fruit promised on the tail end of the palate doesn’t really emerge. Instead it’s the woody, spicy notes that linger. Less spicy with water; at least there’s less of the wood spice—there’s more pepper.
Comments: The nose promised more than the palate delivered but it’s still quite nice on the whole. The nose by itself is really good.
Rating: 85 points.