Okay, let’s get off Islay and head up the western coast of Scotland and make a right turn to Ben Nevis. I reviewed a few 20+ yo indie releases of Ben Nevis towards the end of last year: a 22 yo, a 24 yo and a 26 yo, all distilled in 1991 and released by Signatory and a 21 yo from 1996 released by Whisky Doris. They were all very good, a couple of them exceptional. Those were all from sherry casks and so is this 22 yo released in 2019 by Single Malts of Scotland. Odds are good that this will be at least very good as well. Let’s see if that proves true.
Ben Nevis 22, 1997 (58.4%; Single Malts of Scotland; sherry butt #91; from a bottle split)
Nose: Roasted malt, salted nuts, orange peel and raisins; some powdered ginger too and some dusty oak. There seems to be some richer fruit in the background trying to get out but the alcohol may be holding it back. Let’s give it time and then water. Gets richer as it sits with the orange peel expanding and being joined by some apricot jam and some soy sauce. With a squirt of water the citrus brightens—between orange and lemon now—and then it begins to get more musky with charred pineapple and more apricot. The citrus turns to citronella.
Palate: Comes in with the orange and raisins but then the roasted malt expands and behind it are coffee grounds and charred oak. Expressive even though it’s quite obviously hot at full strength. This should take to water well but let’s give it some air first. The alcohol bite mellows a bit with time and air and the char gets more bitter. It needs some water to open up fully, I think. Ah yes, with water the citrus is the top note; the char—more dark toast now than oak—moves to a supporting role.
Finish: Long. The roasted and charred notes are dominant here, turning peppery at the very end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Was this a first-fill cask? Though water opens it up nicely, the sherry is pretty heavy here and covers up the usual Ben Nevis notes a bit too much in my opinion. Probably one that will please lovers of sherry bombs more than it will please lovers of Ben Nevis funk (which is not to say it’s a regulation sherry bomb). Very good regardless.
Rating: 88 points.