Let us bring Ben Nevis week to a close. To recap, three sherry casks filled in 1991 and bottled by Signatory at the ages of 22, 24, and 26. I thought the 22 yo was a gem and then liked the 24 even more. Do I dare hope that the 26 will be better still? Of course, we know that age is no reliable predictor of quality—a few extra years can take a cask past its prime just as easily as they can add further depth. I am hoping for good things though as the colour of this sample suggests that this too was not an over-active sherry cask. Hopefully, that funky, fruity Ben Nevis character will be front and center here as well. Let’s see if that’s the case.
Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (57.3%; Signatory; sherry butt 2377; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: That familiar mix once again of musky citrus, powdered ginger, malt and yeast. On the second sniff the powdered ginger moves in the slightly rubbery direction of old-school medicine bottles. With time and air the sweeter fruit from the palate (peach nectar) joins the musky citrus. A few drops of water and there’s more malt and some very milky cocoa to go with all the rest.
Palate: Mostly as predicted by the nose, but it’s a bit sweeter here. Good texture and approachable if a bit hot at full strength. On the second sip there’s a fair bit of bitter lime zest and the medicine bottle rubber note feels a bit too pronounced as well. Continues in this vein with an increasing leafy note joining the party. With a lot more time and air—30+ minutes uncovered—the fruit expands, becoming muskier again; and the rubbery thing relaxes as well, letting more roasted malt out. Okay, let’s see what water does. It pushes the bitter notes back and brings out more of the citrus (sweet orange peel mixed in with lemon).
Finish: Long. The fruit gets overtaken by the bitter notes and the rubber. With time the development is as on the palate and it stays fruitier and sweeter here too. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is an excellent whisky but falls just a bit short of the heights of the 22 yo and the 24 yo. The fruit is not quite as rich as in either and the balance not as, well, balanced. Hard to say if this is because it stayed a couple of years too long in the cask or because of this particular cask. I mean, perhaps the 22 and 24 would both have become even more spectacular at 26 years of age. Anyway, I doubt I’ll have a chance to taste any of Signatory’s other 1991 casks. If you have, please report in the comments if they’ve also been in the vein of these three.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Michael for the sample and the opportunity to taste these in sequence.
“I doubt I’ll have a chance to taste any of Signatory’s other 1991 casks. If you have, please report in the comments if they’ve also been in the vein of these three”
Back in 2017, I tried cask 3833 which is a sister cask of the 24yo you reviewed. Despite the colour, I found more traditional sherry notes rather than the citrus/tropical fruit you observed. I also picked up some sulphur on the nose which I didn’t enjoy.
That might, of course, reflect my preferences. I’ve tried ~27 Ben Nevis and found them rather hit or miss. One of the two I scored highest was this one https://www.whiskybase.com/whiskies/whisky/53860/ben-nevis-1996-dd. Given my notes, which emphasized citrus fruits, waxiness and minerality, I suspect you might like it. Doubt the price on Whiskybase is reflective of reality but it’s probably not that expensive if you can find a bottle.
The other Ben Nevis I found interesting were some 1966 bottlings from Douglas Laing and Alambic Classique. Not amazing whiskies, just very unusual flavour profile. Ruben reviewed one of them (https://www.whiskynotes.be/2014/ben-nevis/ben-nevis-1966-cask-3640/).
Thanks. Yes, “hit and miss” describes Ben Nevis well. But the hits are very good—it is of course likely that since the ones that have come my way have not done so through random selection that I have just had more hits than misses. You do make that Whisky Doris bottle sound very good. Not sure where I’d find it though.