Another day, another 20 year old Ben Nevis distilled in 1997. Monday’s iteration was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd; today’s was bottled by the Exclusive Malts/Creative Whisky Company. If I’m not mistaken the company is now defunct (a thousand apologies if that’s not true). Unlike Berry Bros. & Rudd, they specified the cask type: a refill sherry hogshead. I hazarded the opinion on Monday that the Berry Bros. & Rudd cask might also have been refill sherry. Let’s see if I like this one as much as I did that one.
Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (51.9%; The Exclusive Malts; refill sherry hogshead #38; from a bottle split)
Nose: Musty oak off the top and quite a bit of it; a leafy quality too (like damp, rotting leaves). On the second sniff the oak turns to cedar and some sweet orange begins to push its way out. As it sits the citrus becomes more tart/acidic and there’s a mineral, slightly chalky edge to it. With time the oak more or less fades here and is replaced by sweeter notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. Fruitier with water as the orange is joined by some papaya and hints of tart-sweet mango.
Palate: Thankfully, it does not lead with the wood here. Instead there’s the orange along with some roasted malt and some powdered ginger; in other words, more expectedly Ben Nevis. A bigger bite than expected at 51.9% but still quite approachable; decent texture. With time the oak begins to pop out and there’s a bitter, tannic edge to it. The bitterness expands with time—it begins to taste like oak extract; too bad as the orange expands in the background too, picking up the brown sugar from the nose, but all of that gets overshadowed by the oak extract. Let’s see if water fixes it. Yes, it pushes the oak back and pulls out more fruit here too—more acidic and more musky, just as on the nose.
Finish: Long. Nothing new here. The citrus and malt fade slowly and then the bitter oak shows up here as well. As on the palate with water with the fruit becoming more tropical as it goes.
Comments: As you can see, this was a bit of a wild ride. It started out very oaky on the nose but then got fruity and sweet. On the palate it started out with the fruit and then got too oaky for my liking. Water improved both the nose and the palate. If you had a bottle I’m curious to know if the oak dissipated as it stayed open.
Rating: 86 points. (Pulled up by water.)