Ben Nevis 16 (Battlehill)

Ben Nevis 16, Battlehill
Battlehill’s releases are exclusive to Total Wine, I think—at any rate, I’ve not seen them anywhere else. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure who Battlehill are—I have a vague recollection that it may simply be one of Duncan Taylor’s lines. If so, I suppose it may have been a replacement for their earlier value line, Whisky Galore. That one featured whiskies that were not at cask strength and I believe that may be true of all of Battlehill’s releases, not just this one; on the other hand, the Whisky Galore bottles listed distillation years and were single casks, neither of which is true of Battlehill. If this is indeed a Duncan Taylor operation I have very limited positive experience with their Ben Nevis selections: I quite liked a younger Ben Nevis bottled by Whisky Galore a decade ago. On the other hand, if they’re not in fact a Duncan Taylor line you’ve just wasted however many seconds it took you to read this. You’re welcome!

Ben Nevis 16 (46%; Battlehill; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: A mildly rubbery, peppery, farmy note at first. There’s definite peat here, mossy and vegetal rather than phenolic or smoky. Some fruit lurking below all of that (vague hints of melon, maybe lime). After a couple of minutes there’s a sooty aspect to the peat, some coal smoke. With more time the fruit emerges and it’s lime/zest. Still peppery. Water pulls out a lot more fruit (lime, tart apple, some kiwi maybe) and some cream.

Palate: Starts out much fruitier on the palate and sweeter too: more orange than lime here. Then it gets pretty malty and somewhat bready/yeasty. Peppery here too but the peat is far less apparent. On the second sip the citrus has a slightly fermented edge to it and it’s the bready/malty note that’s dominant. Nice oily mouthfeel. With more time the peat begins to emerge and there’s a note of gasoline too. After about 20 minutes it all sort of comes together into a peppery, peaty, malty whole. And a further 15 minutes or so later the fruit is more prominent. With water there’s brighter fruit and more acid and some wet stones thrown in as well.

Finish: Medium. No new development as such. Longer and spicier with water.

Comments: This is not complex but it’s not cookie cutter whisky either. The combination of the malt and pepper and slightly musty fruit on the palate might put some people off: this is the profile that gives Ben Nevis its funky reputation. Me, I liked it but I may be rewarding it somewhat for being quirky. It took water really well.

Rating: 83 points.

Thanks to Patrick for the sample!

4 thoughts on “Ben Nevis 16 (Battlehill)

  1. Hey MAO,

    I would say I’m a longtime reader, but that would be a lie. Still, I’ve enjoyed your blog quite a bit in the six months or so I’ve been reading it.

    Here is what I have been able to ascertain about the distribution of Battlehill: It is predominantly sold at Total Wine, but not exclusively. This may vary by state distribution laws. I see it in other stores regularly, but Maryland has regulations that allow any liquor store to return unsold bottles to the distributor, and other liquor stores can then buy those bottles. So for all I know, Total Wine is the only reason Battlehill bottlings enter the state, but the bottles can and do end up elsewhere–and in large quantities.

    Battlehill itself is a Duncan Taylor Brand. Its original use appears to have been to sell 10 year and younger malts, but I think they merged Battlehill with their “NC2” and Whisky Galore releases (not sure on NC2, but it seems to be gone from the states), so now it’s a hodgepodge of ages. The oldest I’ve seen was a 28 year old Caol Ila. Duncan Taylor does not market these as single barrels, though I have occasionally seen tasting notes from Duncan Taylor implying that at least some of them are–for example, there is a Jura 18 out right now that appears to be a single barrel. Here are the notes, copied directly from TW’s website:

    Hand selected barrel was carefully chosen by BattleHill; resiny, oil, light pine notes, orange zest, nutty with slight spice. Quite earthy with a salty tinge and a lovely malty finish. Enjoy neat. Double Gold Medal-San Francisco Spirits Competition.

    My assumption is the lack of a single barrel designation allows Duncan Taylor to blend dud barrels in with good ones when necessary. One point in Duncan Taylor’s favor is that they have slowly been bumping the ABV of the bottlings up. The normal ABV for these used to be 43%, but as of 2014, all the new releases appear to be 46%. For the most part, the Battlehill bottlings we get ’round here are priced very reasonably, with some exceptions: Their Macallan releases are pretty expensive. Their 2014 Macallan 16 year is $175. Conversely, they have a Bladnoch 22 @ 46% out on the shelves right now that is $80 and excellent to my unrefined palate, if a bit “weird.” I liked it enough that I bought a second bottle, which is rare for a compulsive sampler like myself.

    One final note on my Battlehill thesis: it appears that the majority of the 2015 releases we’ve gotten so far are back at 10 years of age and under, so DT may have decided to add another brand back to their lineup. Or, more likely, they are just going to release the off barrels as single casks anyway. If they don’t think they can get away with Dimensions or Rare, maybe they will just dump the off barrels into the Octave lineup and drown them in sherry or oak.




    • Doh! I thought I’d replied to this right away yesterday—anyway, thanks so much for all the detail. Have you had much luck with the Octave range? I’ve avoided it as I’ve suspected that the odds of tired old barrels being spruced up that way were high.


      • I haven’t tried anything in the Octave range yet, but I did take a chance awhile back and blindly purchased a Duncan Taylor 1988 Clynelish 23 online that ended up being an Octave release instead of Dimensions. Or that’s what showed up at my house, anyway. I guess I could have sent it back, but I haven’t had much luck finding 80s Clynelish and the price was pretty good. More importantly, I’m really lazy when it comes to shipping packages. I’ll open it eventually.


        • I wish you luck with that Clynelish. I used to be very high on Duncan Taylor on account of the number of high quality late ’60s/early 70s malts they released in the early/mid-2000s. On that basis I purchased a Glen Grant 22, 1987 in their NC2 range and it was a sloppy mess: cooking sherry on the finish. I’ve become more wary since. That said, the Whisky Galore line offered pretty decent price to quality ratios for younger malts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.