Let’s get the month off to a likely fruity start with this Ben Nevis. I have three Ben Nevis on my long list for May and I’d said that if I reviewed a whisky that was part of a listed trio I’d likely review all three—as I’m liking organizing my reviews in a themed manner. However, given that I did a Ben Nevis week back in October and have reviewed three more since then, perhaps I don’t need to do another all Ben Nevis week. Accordingly, this will be the first in another week of reviews of highland malts (and I suspect it will also end up being a week of reviews of highly fruity malts).
This Ben Nevis was released in 2020—thus allowing me to spit in the eye of people who accuse me of only posting useless reviews of whiskies released a long time ago. Well, I don’t know that this review will be of any use to anyone either from a purchasing perspective, as I’d guess this sold out a long time ago. But perhaps some of my readers have or have already finished a bottle of this. If so, please consider sharing your take on it in the comments as well.
Ben Nevis 23, 1996 (51.5%; First Editions; refill sherry butt 17618; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big fruit bomb with lime, pineapple and tart mango providing the acidic first wave and then richer notes coming up through the acid: passionfruit, guava, sweeter mango. All run through with that very Ben Nevis mix of malt and powdered ginger. I could sit with this for a while! With a little more air there’s some ripe plum and some apricot jam as well. Gets creamier as it sits and the fruit subsides a bit—let’s see if water wakes it back up. Oh yes, water wakes it back up: a bigger hit of passionfruit now and the apricot and plum expand as well. Just wonderful now.
Palate: Comes in with the malt leading the way and then the tropical fruit bomb just goes off. Richer/less acidic here from the get-go. A perfect drinking strength and a nice weight. More of the same with each sip with the malt getting more roasted each time. Okay, let’s add water. Water thickens the texture further and makes the whole even richer (and maybe just a tad sweeter than I would like)
Finish: Long. As the fruit peaks some oaky bite and menthol coolness emerges along with pepper. With time there’s a muscatel note reminiscent of a delicate Darjeeling tea. More lime here with water at first and then it gets sweeter (simple syrup).
Comments: I put Ben Nevis in my current top five distilleries list last year and this whisky exemplifies why: rich fruit and malt and a very idiosyncratic quality that renders it quite unique in the world of Scottish whisky. I don’t know how much a bottle went for but I wish I had one.
Rating: 91 points.