Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews with yet another K&L exclusive. On Monday I reviewed a Tamdhu 19. I liked it, thought it was very drinkable indeed, but was not blown away by it. Today I have a Ben Nevis that is a year younger. As regular readers of the blog know, I am generally a big fan of contemporary Ben Nevis. The distillery’s malt usually provides a very unique mix of fruit, malt and a characteristic funk that is very hard to describe. Will this one be in that vein? I certainly hope so. Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (52.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Takes a few seconds to open up and then there’s some lemon with a prickly, peppery mineral note alongside. Below that is some malt, some sweet notes of vanilla and cream and just a bit of that Ben Nevis gasoline funk. As it sits richer, muskier fruit begins to gather in the background but doesn’t quite pop out—maybe with more time? Well, not so much with time but with water there’s sweeter fruit (peach?) and it melds nicely with the malt and the cream. Continue reading →
I couldn’t remember where my sample of the Benriach Heredotus Fumosus came from, but there is no mystery with this sample. The presence of the infernal black tape around the cap means it came from Michael K. (of Diving for Pearls). I guess I should be thankful he’s not dipping sample bottles in wax. Yet.
Everything I could tell you about the provenance of this NAS retro Ben Nevis would be stolen from Michael’s review, so you may as well go and read it first if you’re interested in that kind of thing. I’m not sure if new versions of this are still being made, or what really the status of Ben Nevis’ current official releases is. The new 10 yo—which was great—went away and then came back (is the returned version as good as the previous?). In between there was another batch release 10 yo which I did not care for very much. Hopefully, this will be better. Let’s see. Continue reading →
The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was an official release: the Batch 1 release of a 10 yo from 2008. That was I believe an interim release till their new 10 yo—which I did like a lot—came back online. I don’t think there has been a Batch 2. Anyway, whatever its status, I was not a fan. I have not had the 2019 release of the regular 10 yo; I do hope it’s at the level of the prior release. The 14 yo I am reviewing today is an independent release. It was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. in their Exclusive Casks line for Total Wine in the US. I believe that the Creative Whisky Co. is no longer a going concern as of 2018. There’s so much ferment in the whisky world. This whole introduction has been nothing but a record of uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that Michael K., the source of my sample, really liked this one (see his review), though he was undecided about the cask type. Our thoughts on Ben Nevis tend to align. Let’s see if that will continue to be the case here. Continue reading →
I reviewed the (then) new Ben Nevis 10 early last year and really liked it. In fact, I asked—largely rhetorically—if it was the best entry-level malt whisky on the market (and it was very fairly priced too). In response it promptly went off the market. The distillery apparently ran out of stocks that would have allowed them to continue to make it to the same specifications—there’s an account of this in a review on Whiskybase or you could take a look at Michael K.’s recent review which summarizes matters. Rather than go completely off the market the distillery formulated this one-off cask strength release, which is a vatting of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-wine casks. And it is a vintage release from 2008 distillate. Since then the regular 10 yo has indeed come back on the market. This is good news, but it must be said that I have not read any reviews of the new release and am therefore only hopeful that it will be very similar, if not identical to the batch I really liked. This cask strength release I can tell you—spoiler alert—I don’t like as much, I opened it not too long after buying the bottle some months ago and thought it was just okay. I then took it to one of my local group’s tastings and it did quite well there. The bottle has since sat at below the halfway mark for a couple of months—I’m curious to see if it has improved further. Continue reading →
The last indie Ben Nevis I reviewed was excellent—this Archives 27 yo. It featured everything that has made Ben Nevis an unlikely hero in recent years: loads of fruit, malt and nut, and those other savoury, slightly funky notes that make Ben Nevis so unique. Of course, you don’t have to go to older Ben Nevis for these pleasures. The recent official 10 yo is also excellent (though I am not sure what its current status is). This cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd more or less splits the age difference between those two; will it be in line with those two? Or will it be closer to the 19 yo from Montgomerie’s that I reviewed in between those two and which was distilled in the same year? Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malty and juicy (orange juice) with a bitter edge that’s partly oak and partly plastic. As it sits the citrus expands and the bitter note moves more in the direction of bitter orange and zest. Water pushes the bitter notes back and pulls out brighter citrus. Continue reading →
Continuing my miniseries of older whiskies (after Monday’s Tomatin 25 and yesterday’s Caperdonich 27), here is a Ben Nevis. Unlike the other two, it was released this year but, alas, this review is not very timely. I purchased the bottle from Whiskybase—who bottled it under their Archives label—a couple of months ago and waited a bit too long to open and taste it. After my first taste I raced back to their site to get another but it was gone. Yes, I liked it a lot. What is the other proof of this? Well, I’ve finished the bottle less than a month after I opened it. Also, I recently took it to a whisky gathering in St. Paul that featured some very heavy hitters (early 70s Ardbeg, early 80s Port Ellen and Caol Ila, late 70s Laphroaig 10 and so on) and it held its own. Lovers of fruity malts already know this, but the once dodgy Ben Nevis distillery is now one of our very best sources for exuberantly fruity whisky. Of course, as it’s Ben Nevis it’s got some funky notes mixed in but that’s part of the fun. Continue reading →
Here is the last of four Total Wine exclusives that I purchased a couple of months ago. In April, Michael K. and I posted simul-reviews of three of these: a Glen Ord, a Caol Ila, and a Laphroaig. The last is this Ben Nevis. Michael K. has a sample of this as well but we didn’t end up setting up a simul-review of this one for some reason. Like the Glen Ord and the Caol Ila, this one was also bottled by Montgomerie’s. Ben Nevis of this age, from ex-bourbon casks can be very fruity indeed and so this has potential; on the other hand, the other Montgomerie’s selections did not exactly set the world on fire. Let’s see where this one falls.
Ben Nevis 19, 1997 (46%; Montgomerie’s; cask 186; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malty, slightly cardboardy to start but below that there’s milk chocolate and orange peel. An unlikely combination but it works. The citrus expands as it sits. A drop or three of water pull out more citrus still and also some cherry. Continue reading →
While I have reviewed a number of independent releases of Ben Nevis, it has been more than three years since my last review of an official release—this single cask 1996-2012. As I’ve noted before, Ben Nevis’s somewhat dodgy past reputation has been overhauled in recent years, and this has been marked most clearly in the rising prices of their official vintage releases. The recent’ish makeover of their entry-level 10 yo, however, has not been accompanied by an unreasonable price. Not in the UK, at any rate: there you can get it for £32 ex. vat. I’m not even sure if it’s in the US. What pops up on Winesearcher is the old 10 yo (which had a different label), and that’s going for $75 and more. That might make it the priciest 10 yo on the market—and that older version was not even very good. This one is very good; since taking the picture, I’ve consumed half of the bottle—and though I have another on the shelf next to it, I might have to get another when I’m in the UK next month. Continue reading →
I’ve been going on for some years now about how Ben Nevis’s historically iffy reputation has been poised to turn around and it seems like that time is finally here. Official releases of Ben Nevis fetch top dollar and indie iterations are also seeing rises in price. This is largely because Ben Nevis is one of the most reliable sources of exuberant tropical fruit in single malt whisky—and in their case it’s often mixed with malt and cocoa and a certain wild edge; altogether it makes for a very idiosyncratic combination. I keep an eye out for indie Ben Nevis, especially from bourbon casks and in the late teens age-wise (see, for example, this other 17 yo Ben Nevis from Cadenhead that I absolutely loved). Accordingly, I purchased this one in the UK that was bottled by the German outfit, The Whisky Agency, for an Australian importer named Casa de Vinos. I’m not sure if the entire run was bottled for the Australian market or if some of this cask was released in the EU as well. Anyway, I opened this last month for one of my local group’s tastings, expecting it to be a highlight. To my dismay, it was rather flat. I set it aside to see if some air in the bottle would do it any good, and here now are my notes a few weeks after it was opened. Continue reading →
After a few very untimely reviews let’s do a couple this week that were bottled closer to the present—just last year, in fact (they’re not available any more either but you can’t have everything). First up, this Ben Nevis 19, 1996 bottled by the usually very reliable Cadenhead in their Small Batch series. I bought this at auction in the UK and the bottle did not come with the dangling paper thingy that contains all the cask details on these releases (is there a name for those things?). The label does say “Small Batch” but Whiskybase tells me there were only 222 bottles released. So, was it actually a single cask? Hard to see how you could blend two or more casks and arrive at so few bottles—unless only a part of the vatting was released here. Anyway, I bought it because ex-bourbon Ben Nevis can offer the tropical fruit that I so love in single malt whisky at a younger age than most distilleries, and because the last Cadenhead’s Small Batch ex-bourbon Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought was just excellent (as was the last ex-sherry Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought). I am happy to say that my hopes were not dashed on the shoals of reality. Continue reading →
My first review in November was of a 19 yo Ben Nevis, bottled by Master of Malt in their That Boutiquey Whisky Company series. I did not care for it very much. It was a little too spirity and not generally very good evidence for my repeated claim that Ben Nevis may well become the next big thing among whisky geeks, as the prices of current top line distilleries, especially for sherry casks, continue to rise towards and past the roof. I noted of that one that it was frustrating because everything I like about Ben Nevis was obviously there in it but covered by chemical/artificial notes of one kind or the other. I am happy to say that this one does not suffer from any of those problems. It was bottled by Whisky Import Nederland and this is my second bottle. I went through the first at a pretty rapid rate—I also took it to one of my whisky group’s tastings a few months ago, and it was a hit with everyone there as well. It’s from a refill sherry cask but not a very shy one. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
That Boutiquey Whisky Company is a line of whiskies released by Master of Malt, the UK whisky store best known for not being the Whisky Exchange but seemingly desperately wanting to be. Take for example, this series, in 500 ml bottles, that launched after TWE’s 500 ml Elements of Islay series. The TBWC malts, however, are not limited to Islay and have labels as colourful (or garish, if you prefer) as those of Elements of Islay are minimalist. It’s a campier look, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that reviewers I trust rarely seem to have overmuch praise for what’s in TBWC’s bottles. That used to generally also be true of Ben Nevis, though its previously dodgy reputation seems to be on the rise of late. I’m on record as saying that Ben Nevis, especially from sherry casks, may well be the next big thing among whisky geeks. It’s certainly true that well-aged, independent, sherried Ben Nevis can still be found at reasonable prices. I’m not sure if this one was reasonably priced though—these TBWC releases are usually priced pretty high as well. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. At least it’s not NAS as many of their earlier releases were (and, to be fair, as every single Elements of Islay release has been). Continue reading →
I’ve reviewed this Ben Nevis before. That was a review of a purchased sample — I ended by saying I might have to purchase a bottle and I did. I opened the bottle pretty quickly after purchase and took it to one of my local group’s tastings (where it did quite well). I’ve been drinking the bottle down at a pretty steady clip since then and figured I’d re-review it to see how much overlap there is between my notes on the two occasions. You’ll have to believe me when I say that I have not re-read the first review before starting on this one.
Ben Nevis 18, 1995 (55.5%; Wilson & Morgan; sherry butt 657; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sharp and a little varnishy at first; some paraffin too. Then the fruit begins to emerge: bright citrus and a more indistinct muskiness below. Gets quite dusty as it sits and a little bit malty as well. With a lot more time the sharper notes recede and the fruit is to the fore (and sweeter now). And with water the sharp notes are all but gone and there’s a biscuity quality to go with the sweet citrus. Continue reading →
I’ve noted many times before the phenomenon of distilleries that were unloved when they were open eventually becoming hot tickets some years after their closure. You could certainly add Ben Nevis to the list of unloved distilleries. When I was first getting serious/deranged about single malt whisky Ben Nevis was one of the distilleries of which very few people had anything positive to say. It was seen as an eccentric distillery at best, and even those who didn’t dislike its malt would concede that its product was wildly inconsistent. You might have thought that it too would need to close down to get a better reputation, a la Littlemill. Of late, however, it’s begun to seem that they might not need that drastic step. A lot of indie Ben Nevis has been showing up in the last couple of years, and a lot of it has been fairly well received. And given the high prices that the distillery has begun to charge for its teenaged vintage releases it appears that the worm may well have begun to turn. Indie Ben Nevis, however, remains good value. Continue reading →