I’ve had more Ben Nevis in the last year or so than I had in all my years drinking whisky before then. But I don’t think I’ve had very many in this general age range that were from sherry casks and so I’m very interested to try this one. Ben Nevis is a pretty idiosyncratic malt at the best of times and it’s possible that sherry could saw off some of its rougher edges in either a good or bad way. In the case of this excellent 25 yo the sherry had a very nice impact but that was a case of double maturation, not full-term sherry maturation.
I’m also interested to see how this distillery bottling compares to the younger independent releases I’ve had. Ben Nevis’ profile seems to be on the rise of late with more and more vintage based releases, at seemingly higher prices than in the past. Having said that though they’ve just released a 48 yo from 1966 at €600, which is a lot of money but less than some distilleries charge for their 25 year old malts. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading
Battlehill’s releases are exclusive to Total Wine, I think—at any rate, I’ve not seen them anywhere else. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure who Battlehill are—I have a vague recollection that it may simply be one of Duncan Taylor’s lines. If so, I suppose it may have been a replacement for their earlier value line, Whisky Galore. That one featured whiskies that were not at cask strength and I believe that may be true of all of Battlehill’s releases, not just this one; on the other hand, the Whisky Galore bottles listed distillation years and were single casks, neither of which is true of Battlehill. If this is indeed a Duncan Taylor operation I have very limited positive experience with their Ben Nevis selections: I quite liked a younger Ben Nevis bottled by Whisky Galore a decade ago. On the other hand, if they’re not in fact a Duncan Taylor line you’ve just wasted however many seconds it took you to read this. You’re welcome!
As the whisky bubble continues to inflate and prices for malts from established names (and also some not very established ones) rise higher and higher, we are going to see the independents bring more and more single casks from previously second and third tier distilleries to market. This is not a particularly original insight/forecast—a lot of people have made it. Not a lot of people would have said some years ago, however, that Ben Nevis might be poised for an image makeover—the official malt has always been idiosyncratic. I have a theory though that its profile is going to rise. For one thing, the owners seem to be releasing more of it (and asking good money for some of it); for another, I think as more and more sherried Ben Nevis shows up it is going to win whisky geeks over.
Ben Nevis, located in the Highlands, is another distillery of no great reputation. On the one hand, in such cases this means you can often find independent bottlings at very good prices; on the other, it means that you take a greater chance with each bottle, as no one is clamouring to review every Ben Nevis or Glen Moray or Linkwood or Dufftown etc. etc. that comes on the market. The bottle I am tasting today is another from Duncan Taylor’s now defunct Whisky Galore line, and was selected by The Party Source in Kentucky. I bought it on a whim and didn’t open it for almost two years because I was convinced it wouldn’t be good and I’d regret the purchase–even though it was quite reasonably priced. I finally opened it and, predictably, loved it; went back for more, only to find it was all gone. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
By the time I opened this bottle, the whisky had sat in it almost as long as it had matured in the cask.