Ben Nevis 10yo (46%, OB, 2018, L18/8069)

I’m a big, big fan of Springbank and all of its output. I love the taste, the independence, the batch variation, the society. Buy a bottle and you never get the same Whisky twice. Above all however, I love the taste in combination with the sheer quality. Springbank 10yo was always the )only) Whisky I mention to people when they ask me for a bang-for-your-buck Whisky. Nevertheless, I’m always open to other Whiskies as well, I’m not bound to a few distilleries, or to one type of Whisky. I love a lot of different Whiskies with different styles. Dear readers, Springbank 10yo is about to be dethroned from that first place. I will still mention it, but with the same breath I will also mention this Ben Nevis 10yo. It’s fabulous. It’s complex, its unexpected, it’s simply wonderful. It has aromas I only encounter in Whiskies from yesteryear and not in modern stuff like this, distilled in the 21st century. I’m not sure if only this particular batch is so good, or that all Ben Nevis’ 10yo are this good, but we will find out someday, won’t we? Although I’m sure the latter is true!

Color: Light Gold.

Nose: Fresh, flowery, malty and fatty. Lightly sweet and very, very seducing. Smoky and fresh. Sweaty (Sauvignon Blanc), yet also lots of aroma’s from Alsatian White Wines and Rieslings from across the border (that would be Germany). Nice notes of subdued oak and even honey. Warming and big. Toffee, without the sugar. Creamy and nutty. Sweet yellow, tropical fruit yoghurt. Very special. Tiny, tiny, tiny hint of peat (and smoke) and also some Sherry. Tiny hint of pencil shavings and some sawdust as well. Extremely well-balanced.

Taste: Sweet, sweaty and big. Toasted oak. Benefits from air, so let it sit in your glass for a moment. The sweaty notes from the nose are here for you to taste as well. Tropical fruits, yes. Dried pineapple and papaya come to mind backed by a bitter oak note. This has definitely older Whisky in the mix. (18yo is rumoured). Where others probably sell a lot of Whisky and are aching for NAS-expressions. The owners of Ben Nevis (The Japanese) are taking it zen, and have older Whiskies to spare to make this special 10yo even more special. In fact the profile lies somewhere between Springbank 10yo (fatty, oily, warm motor oil, hints of peat and big) and Caperdonichs from 1972 (the fruit man, the fruit). Great body, medium finish (turning a wee bit sour for a moment), with a nice long warming aftertaste (not sour anymore). When its gone, its gone (and you need another sip). Complex, but not too much.

Ben Nevis 10yo looks like this, since 2016 and is released once a year, and it seems to me it sort of sells out before the next release has been bottled. For instance the 2019 versions hasn’t been released yet, but this 2018 I’m reviewing now, has all but vanished from many shops I know. It is the only standard bottling, with the rest of the output being specials and single cask bottlings. All sold at special prices indeed, making this the only standard bottling of Ben Nevis and also the only affordable one. I wish they would expand a bit with their standard range, like a 15yo for instance, and some others after that? Yes please!

Points: 88

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Ben Nevis 21yo 1992/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #2312, 695 bottles)

Next we’ll have a look at an indie Ben Nevis. I love Ben Nevis, it usually is a malt that strikes a chord with me. For me Ben Nevis is still a distillery working today that is able to churn out very good Whiskies, and for sure is one I’ll always keep an eye out for. That said I also am realistic. Not every indie Ben Nevis is good. It isn’t a distillery I would buy indie bottles from without tasting first. Although pretty good, The Golden Cask Ben Nevis I reviewed earlier, did have a strange, funky finish, which makes it, in my opinion, less of a daily drinker. The Ben Nevis we have at hand here was sourced from Signatory. Just have a look at the cask numbers The Ultimate and Signatory are putting out from 1992.

Ben Nevis 21yo 1992/2013 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #2312, 695 bottles)Color: Light gold, with a slight pink hue

Nose: Yeah, now we’re talking. Fatty, buttery, vanilla and fruity. Lots happening and everything seems to fit together quite nicely. Fantastic fruitiness, all sorts of mixed up fruits, red, black and yellow fruits. Almost impossible to discern any of them. Caramel, mocha and strawberry combined with sweat. The wood shows itself here as nutty. Yes this is very special. Do I detect some old school Whisky here?

Taste: Sweet but also a little bit acidic. Very appetizing. Some burnt notes and quite spicy without it being woody. Marzipan and again lots of fruits with some nuts. Highly complex, and I’m imagining this amount of flavor and its complexity might not be for everyone. Hints of smoke, and it has a curiously hidden sweetness to it. Maybe its high in fruits that it only seems to be sweet. Pure enjoyment. Is it without flaws than? Yep this Whisky suffers a bit from a weak finish. Everything that is so well-balanced in this Whisky is absent from the finish. It has some power but after the big body, the finish is a bit weak, and missing some of the big flavors that were so apparent in the body. But hey, this to me is still a pretty good Whisky.

I have to admit, I love Ben Nevis. Most of the times I encounter one, albeit blind or not, I seem to like it. It has characteristics I do like personally. I rated a full bottle of this 86 Points. This review is written about the last drops from the bottle. It is excellent and since I’m going to score this even higher, I’d say this needs some air people.

Points: 88

Ben Nevis 1986/2012 (58.2%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, CM 188, 111 bottles)

Here are a few firsts, and on paper a quite interesting one to boot. This is the first Ben Nevis on these pages. It’s also the first time I’m reviewing a Whisky that was bottled by The House of MacDuff. Now for the interesting part. Some of you might have read “Wort, worms & washbacks” The memoirs of John McDougall written by Gavin D. Smith. By the way, Gavin was “reviewed” once before, so he’s no first. The House of MacDuff is a venture of Jane MacDuff ánd John McDougall. John also picks the casks for bottling under the Golden Cask brand. For those of you who haven’t read this book, well it’s utterly entertaining and very funny. Recommended. John has worked at a lot of very interesting distilleries in all Scottish regions, so I’m assuming that all picks by John just have to be great. I got a few samples from the series, and I’ll start with this Ben Nevis from 1986.

Color: Pinkish gold

Nose: Fresh, sharp and fruity sweet. Black tea (dry leaves). Nice bourbon cask not dissimilar from the Cadenhead offerings (Bourbon Barrels). Warm apple sauce and quite thick. Condensed sweet apple. Not a lot of wood, but there seems to be enough vanillin going around in this. Sawdust. Slightly vegetal too. Hints only of ethanol.

Taste: Sweet, vegetal and slightly woody (multiplex). Quite full and round (sweet) mouthfeel. This is not bad, not very complex but very likeable. Taste is pretty balanced, for me it just goes a bit wrong in the finish. Slightly acidic and the vegetal part (fern) starts to play a larger role. Also, but very late, comes in some bitterness from the wood. Fern with the sweetness, and the slight bitterness, is maybe a strange combination, but hey it’s only part of the finish, so don’t worry.

The Golden Cask don’t disclose all the facts of the cask, but this is probably a Bourbon Barrel. This bottling has yielded 111 bottles, so I’m guessing the cask was shared and this is only half the output from the cask. The second half was probably bottled for the Whiskymesse Rüsselsheim. That bottling yielded 100 bottles. 100 bottles of whisky on the wall, was probably the original order with The Golden Cask buying the rest of barrel #133. Therefore this Ben Nevis should also be 26yo.

Points: 84