Let’s do another week of Ben Nevis. Another?, you ask. Yes, I did a Ben Nevis week back in April. That was a trio of 20 year olds: two distilled in 1997 (one from Exclusive Malts and one from Berry Bros. & Rudd), and the other was distilled in 1999 (and bottled by the Daily Dram). We’ll start this week with another 20 yo, this time distilled in 1996 and bottled by Single Cask Nation. Like the Exclusive Malts and Berry Bros. bottles, this one is from a sherry cask—a refill oloroso puncheon to be exact. Even though I generally prefer bourbon cask Ben Nevis, I did like both of those. Let’s hope this one is in their vein.
Ben Nevis 20, 1996 (55.6%; Single Cask Nation; refill oloroso puncheon; from a bottle split)
Nose: Opens with brown sugar, dried ginger and roasted nuts. Orange peel and orange juice as it sits and then whiffs of muskier fruit (tart-sweet mango, a hint of passionfruit). The muskier fruit never quite arrives fully. With a few drops of water there’s some light caramel and some cocoa and then more of the musky fruit.
Palate: Comes in with the roasted nuts and some roasted malt leading the way and the orange peel following. Approachable but has an appreciable bite at full strength and decent texture. With time the oak emerges earlier and brings an unappealing bitterness and mustiness with it. Let’s see if water rescues this. Well, the fruit does pick up a bit but so does the oak.
Finish: Long. Gets oakier here and then the wine begins to come apart a bit—was this a finish? More astringent here with water with the fruit peeping through the oak tantalizingly but never quite making it out.
Comments: Well, after a promising start on the nose this was a bit of a disappointment: the palate and finish did not live up to the early promise of the nose and nor, for that matter, did the nose. Water helped a bit but just a bit. Drinkable enough but nothing special. Okay, let’s hope Ben Nevis week picks up on Wednesday.
Rating: 82 points.