Ben Nevis 21, 1998 (Archives)


This week of Ben Nevis has not turned out to be all I hoped it would be. Monday’s 20 yo from Single Cask Nation was disappointing; while Wednesday’s 21 yo from the Daily Dram was a fair bit better, it didn’t have me reaching for superlatives either. Those were both refill sherry casks. Today’s closer is also 21 years old but is from a hogshead. Will it reward my oft-stated faith in bourbon cask Ben Nevis? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 21, 1998 (48.2%; Archives; hogshead 188; from a bottle split)

Nose: Quite fruity with melon, pineapple, tart-sweet apple. The nuts and powdered ginger and funky notes are so far not here. The powdered ginger emerges with time along with some cream and some dusty oak A few drops of water make the cream expand and bring out more sweet fruit to go with it—some blueberries too now. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (The Daily Dram)


Ben Nevis week got off to a disappointing start with Monday’s 20 yo from 1996. That one, bottled by Single Cask Nation, was from a refill oloroso puncheon. Today I have for you another from the 1996 vintage, with an additional year of age. It is also from a refill sherry cask—a butt in this case, and the type of sherry not specified. This one was bottled by the Daily Dram—which, I have to constantly remind myself is an independent bottler unrelated to the Nectar’s “Daily Drams” series. Anyway, I’m hoping this will reset this week of Ben Nevis. Odds are good as I can’t remember the last time I had two indifferent Ben Nevises in a row.

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (50.6%; The Daily Dram; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: A classic Ben Nevis arrival with roasted nuts, malt, ginger powder, yeasty dough and rubber gaskets from old medicine bottles. On the second sniff there’s a fair bit of salt and just a hint of smoke. As it sits some sweet citrus emerges (orange peel and juice). With time the yeast comes to the fore and is joined by some white pepper. Water pushes the yeast back a bit and brings out more citrus. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1999 (The Daily Dram)


I must apologize for lying to you. On Monday I said that all three of this week’s reviews would be of 20 yo Ben Nevises distilled in 1997. This was true of Monday’s Berry Bros. & Rudd cask and also of Wednesday’s Exclusive Malts cask. But it turns out that this one—bottled by The Daily Dram—was actually distilled in 1999. It is a Ben Nevis though and 20 years old, which means I’m only 33% a liar. It’s also different from the other two in that while those were both sherry casks—well, the Berry Bros. cask does not specify but it seems pretty obviously a sherry cask—this one is not. Okay, so this one does not specify the cask type either but by the looks of it this seems very much like an ex-bourbon cask. Will it be more quintessentially Ben Nevis than the other two were? I did like both of those but felt the sherry covered up the Ben Nevis funk a bit too much. In theory, at least, the bourbon cask should let more of that out. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (The Exclusive Malts)


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. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


Let’s start the month with a trio of Ben Nevis. After that we’ll be ready for anything. All three that I’ll be reviewing this week are 20 years old and distilled in 1997. I’m curious to see how much variation there will be across the set. First up, a cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd, a name that is generally a reliable marker of baseline quality. True to form, they do not specify the cask type but, as you’ll see, I have a guess.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)

Nose: That very Ben Nevis mix of ginger, salted nuts, white pepper and malt off the top. On the second sniff there’s a faint whiff of diesel as well plus bright citrus. Continues in this general vein. With water there’s the diesel turns to paraffin and the ginger and citrus turn to citronella. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997, King of the Hills (Old Particular)


We’ll stay in the western part of Scotland for the last of this week’s highlands reviews (which began at Ardmore on Monday and continued at Oban on Wednesday).

Ben Nevis is located less than 50 miles drive from Oban but the profiles of the distilleries’ malts are much further away from each other. Where Oban produces a relatively austere spirit, Ben Nevis puts out what can fairly be called a consistently funky one. Independent releases in recent years have done a lot to improve the distillery’s reputation and the official 10 yo was excellent too when I last checked in on it (I’m not sure of its current status). It’s no secret to those who read the blog regularly that I really enjoy Ben Nevis—exactly one year ago I placed it in the list of my five favourite distilleries. Their whiskies are not always great but they’re always interesting. Let’s see if this one manages to be both. It was bottled a couple of years ago by the Laings’ Old Particular label as part of a series of “cards”—I think there were cards for various regions. Ben Nevis, appropriately, was named “King of the Hills”. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 25, 1991 (Signatory)


Alright, after a week of peated Islay whiskies followed by a week of rums, let’s do a week of older whiskies; specifically a week of 25 yo and over whiskies. First up is a Ben Nevis distilled in 1991 and bottled in September 2016 by Signatory from a sherry butt. As regular readers of the blog know, I am a big fan of the idiosyncratic malts made by Ben Nevis. Always fruity, Ben Nevis usually gets even more so with age. The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was a 23 yo from a refill sherry butt and I loved it. I also really liked this 22 yo from 1997—also from a sherry butt—and this 21 yo from 1996 from a refill sherry butt. And for that matter I’ve previously reviewed three other sherry cask Signatory 1991 Ben Nevises—a 26 yo, a 24 yo and a 22 yo—and liked them all very much (though I do note that I liked the 26 yo the least). I guess what I’m saying is that sherry cask maturation rarely seems to get in the way of the pleasures of Ben Nevis’ distillate. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 23, 1996 (First Editions)


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. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 22, 1997 (Single Malts of Scotland)


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. Continue reading

Glencoe 8


Let’s close the month with a Scotch whisky that is neither a single malt nor a blend. Yes, it’s in everybody’s favourite confusingly named category: blended malt whisky! Once known more clearly as “vatted whisky”, this category comprises vattings of malt (but no grain) whiskies from more than one distillery. There’s not very many of these out there from big name producers—William Grant & Sons’ Monkey Shoulder comes to mind, as does Diageo’s Green Label. Otherwise, this category is mostly the province of people like the bespoke suit-clad gents at Compass Box. This Glencoe 8 is a product of the owners of Ben Nevis and it’s barely a blended/vatted malt. The story seems to be that it is made up of malt from Ben Nevis and one other distillery (which one? I don’t know). The even more unusual things about are its age statement, proof and price. Normally you’d expect a distillery to dilute something like this down well below 50%, swap out the age statement for words such as “Reserve”, “Select”, “Pride” or something in Gaelic and sell it for a very high price. Good on the Ben Nevis brain trust for not doing any of those things. Well, that last part is true in the UK where this goes for £40 or so; the few listings I found for the US were closer to $100. This sample comes from a bottle released a couple of years ago with a label different from the current iteration—which is in line with the new Ben Nevis house label; the whisky in the bottle itself has apparently not changed. But what is that whisky in the bottle like? Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (Whisky Doris)


I reviewed three 20+ yo Ben Nevis last month, all from Signatory, all distilled in 1991 and all from sherry butts. I found the 22 yo and the 24 yo from the trio to be excellent and the 26 yo to be merely very, very good. None of them exhibited sherry bomb character, allowing the distillery’s unique funky mix of fruit and malt and mineral notes to come through front and center. Today I have another 20+ yo Ben Nevis from a sherry butt (this time specified as a refill sherry butt). This was bottled not by Signatory but by the German outfit, Whisky Doris—though for all I know, Signatory may be the source of their casks. This one is from 1996, another year from which a number of casks have been bottled. In addition to the official 1996-2012 I’ve reviewed a number of indies as well: an 18 yo from Liquid Treasures; a couple from Cadenhead (this 19 yo and this 17 yo); and another 18 yo from Whisky Import Nederland. Indeed, my very first Ben Nevis review was of a 9 yo, 1996 bottled by Duncan Taylor under their Whisky Galore label. All of them—whether from bourbon or sherry casks—have ranged from very good to excellent; and all have been anything but cookie cutter whiskies. Let’s hope this one doesn’t let the side down. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (Signatory)


Let us bring Ben Nevis week to a close. To recap, three sherry casks filled in 1991 and bottled by Signatory at the ages of 22, 24, and 26. I thought the 22 yo was a gem and then liked the 24 even more. Do I dare hope that the 26 will be better still? Of course, we know that age is no reliable predictor of quality—a few extra years can take a cask past its prime just as easily as they can add further depth. I am hoping for good things though as the colour of this sample suggests that this too was not an over-active sherry cask. Hopefully, that funky, fruity Ben Nevis character will be front and center here as well. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (57.3%; Signatory; sherry butt 2377; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: That familiar mix once again of musky citrus, powdered ginger, malt and yeast. On the second sniff the powdered ginger moves in the slightly rubbery direction of old-school medicine bottles. With time and air the sweeter fruit from the palate (peach nectar) joins the musky citrus. A few drops of water and there’s more malt and some very milky cocoa to go with all the rest. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (Signatory)


Here is the second of three Ben Nevis 1991s this week. Like Monday’s 22 yo, this 24 yo was bottled by Signatory from a sherry butt. I loved the 22 yo—will this one be as good? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (55.7%; Signatory; sherry butt 3834; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A very obvious relative of the 22 yo but here the roasted malt and nutty notes are on top of the citrus (which is brighter/more acidic: lime). On the second sniff the citrus is muskier (makrut lime peel) and here’s the powdered ginger too now. Continues in this vein. A few drops of water and there’s a big hit of citronella and then the fruit begins to get first sweeter and then savoury: peach nectar laced with lime juice and a bit of salt. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 22, 1991 (Signatory)


Here starts a week of reviews of sherry matured whiskies from Ben Nevis. All three of this week’s whiskies were distilled in 1991 and were bottled by Signatory. Signatory, by the way, have bottled 31 of the 42 releases of 1991 Ben Nevis listed on Whiskybase. They’ve all but cornered the market on that vintage. My reviews start with this 22 yo; on Wednesday I’ll have a review of a 24 yo; and Friday I’ll have a review of a 26 yo. Assuming the casks were of similar character/quality this may shed some minor light on the effects of a few more years of aging past the 20 year mark. All these samples, by the way, came to me from the excellent Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. Last week he reviewed all three and added on two others for good measure—a 23 yo and a 25 yo. So if you’re interested in that question of the incremental effects of aging you can find more specific data on his blog. I have avoided looking at his reviews so as to not be overly influenced by his silken tones. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (Liquid Treasures)


My recent batting average with Ben Nevis is very high. I can’t remember the last one I disliked and most have been very good indeed; in particular a few that were distilled in 1996 (for example, this, this and this). That’s good news because this is a Ben Nevis, 1996 too. Therefore, as per science, this is likely to be very good. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (50.7%; Liquid Treasures; bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big fruit (sweet citrus mixed in with tinned pineapple and a bit of peach) along with a big malty note as well as some cocoa. In other words, very Ben Nevis. The malt gets yeastier as it sits and some tingling oak emerges as well; the fruit is all still here though. Sweeter and more floral with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (Old Particular for K&L)


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

Ben Nevis, McDonald’s Traditional, Batch 1


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

Ben Nevis 14, 1998 (Exclusive Casks)


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