The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was an official release: the Batch 1 release of a 10 yo from 2008. That was I believe an interim release till their new 10 yo—which I did like a lot—came back online. I don’t think there has been a Batch 2. Anyway, whatever its status, I was not a fan. I have not had the 2019 release of the regular 10 yo; I do hope it’s at the level of the prior release. The 14 yo I am reviewing today is an independent release. It was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. in their Exclusive Casks line for Total Wine in the US. I believe that the Creative Whisky Co. is no longer a going concern as of 2018. There’s so much ferment in the whisky world. This whole introduction has been nothing but a record of uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that Michael K., the source of my sample, really liked this one (see his review), though he was undecided about the cask type. Our thoughts on Ben Nevis tend to align. Let’s see if that will continue to be the case here.
Ben Nevis 14, 1998 (53.2%; Exclusive Casks for Total Wine; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Fruity notes come wafting out as I pour—but it’s twisted Ben Nevis fruit: that is to say, there’s a lot of orange but it’s got a slightly over-ripe/rotten edge to it. Plus the usual intertwined malt and cocoa and digestive biscuit. A few drops of water soften it up and bring out some cream and some vanilla; the cocoa turns to a mix of milk chocolate and butterscotch.
Palate: No rotting oranges here but the malt and digestive biscuit are present in spades and they are joined by smoke and a bit of chocolate (fruit and nut). It has a bite at full strength but is approachable enough. Brighter (lemon rather than orange) and more peppery on the second sip and that trajectory generally continues as it goes. As on the nose with water.
Finish: Medium. Nothing new here at first but also nothing that detracts. The pepper from the palate becomes oak and spice here but there’s nothing tannic. With time that malt-cocoa complex expands here. See above for developments with water.
Comments: Is Ben Nevis the most idiosyncratic malt in Scotland? Good or bad, it’s always interesting. Fortunately, here it is both interesting and very good. As for cask type, I am inclined to say first-fill bourbon.
Rating: 88 points.