Ben Nevis 22, 1991 (Signatory)


Here starts a week of reviews of sherry matured whiskies from Ben Nevis. All three of this week’s whiskies were distilled in 1991 and were bottled by Signatory. Signatory, by the way, have bottled 31 of the 42 releases of 1991 Ben Nevis listed on Whiskybase. They’ve all but cornered the market on that vintage. My reviews start with this 22 yo; on Wednesday I’ll have a review of a 24 yo; and Friday I’ll have a review of a 26 yo. Assuming the casks were of similar character/quality this may shed some minor light on the effects of a few more years of aging past the 20 year mark. All these samples, by the way, came to me from the excellent Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. Last week he reviewed all three and added on two others for good measure—a 23 yo and a 25 yo. So if you’re interested in that question of the incremental effects of aging you can find more specific data on his blog. I have avoided looking at his reviews so as to not be overly influenced by his silken tones.

Ben Nevis 22, 1991 (58.3%; Signatory; sherry butt 2832; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: That very Ben Nevis mix of citrus (between orange and lemon), roasted malt, ginger powder and just a whiff of diesel. The citrus seems to expand with each sniff, getting more acidic as it goes. With more time there’s some sweeter, stickier fruit in there too—apricot, a touch of mango (more like mango leather). With more time still there’s some milky cocoa as well. A few drops of water and the mango expands further and is joined by charred pineapple and a bit of peach.

Palate: Comes in acidic but then the richer fruit expands as I swallow and is joined by the roasted malt. A nice texture and quite approachable at full strength. More salt as it sits and the roasted malt expands. With more time and air the orange peel turns to marmalade and is mixed with figs and mango; the roasted malt moves in the direction of cocoa powder. Water emphasizes the fruit further here as well with the citrus making a comeback.

Finish: Long. Pretty much as indicated by the palate. The fruit and the malt fade out slowly together.

Comments: This is a lovely whisky. At first it seemed like it was going to be in the very good, 87-88 points band but with time, air and then water it bloomed into a truly wonderful marriage of fruit and malt. The sherry cask does not dominate the whisky; instead it shades the malt’s idiosyncratic character. This is not one to drink fast: I spent about 2 hours with 2 ounces. I was going to say that I wish I had a bottle but I just discovered I do in fact have one, purchased back in 2015! Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

Rating: 90 points.

Thanks to Michael for the sample!

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