Wednesday 31 March 2021

Tasted #512 - 513: Sherried Ben Nevis showdown

Whilst whisky might not "follow vintage" the same way that wine does, there are definitely some whiskies distilled in certain periods which, in my view, stand out - be it due to changes in production methods, wood policy, cask sourcing/availability, or just plain old luck. 

Mid 1960s Bowmore is a well-known example. 1993 GlenDronach too. Late 2000's Caol Ila (ex-Bourbon) is a more recent one...and in my opinion, late 1990s Ben Nevis (1996 gets all the love, but don't look past 1995 and 1997).

I recently had two samples of Ben Nevis - one a 1996 "Small Batch" 21yo bottled for La Maison du Whisky, the other a 1997 Single Cask 19yo bottled by SMWS. What do you do when you have two similar, delicious whisky samples? Try them side-by-side of course!

Ben Nevis SMWS 78.41 "A Real Sherry Monster" 1997-2017 (57.1% ABV, 19yo, IB, Highlands, Scotland)
Colour: Deep orange gold.

Nose: Rich creamy coffee grounds and red currants, followed by nutty chocolate Florentine. With water: more creaminess with hints of white chocolate.

Palate: Toffee, marzipan sweetness, then slightly metallic herbal notes and musk sticks. With water, the herbs become more pronounced.

Finish: Long, slightly tannic. Herbal mouthwash. With water, there are slightly less tannins but more herbs.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. A real mixed bag, with a lot going on. I liked it, but didn't love it the way I have some 1990s Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis 21yo "Small Batch" for LMdW 1996-2018 (55.5% ABV, 21yo, OB, Highlands, Scotland)
Colour: Dark copper-brown.

Nose: Deep rich sherry notes - dirty old leather books, herbal musk, dunnage warehouse. With water: some cola notes emerge.

Palate: Rich, velvety deep sherry notes - more of the leather and herbal musk, but adding raisins, coffee grounds and the tiniest hint of sulphur. With water: cola, more raisins and herbs.

Finish: Long, dark chocolate cherry.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A bit more up my alley but I'd prefer to see a little less cask influence and a bit more spirit.


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