A few weeks ago the Malt Nuts got together once again to investigate and celebrate a distillery we all know and love… Ben Nevis. The typical fare of food, conversation and good vibes surrounded us as we made our way through the expressions the members brought. Being so close to the holidays there was a festive feeling in the air, or maybe that was just the chill of the night. Either way we all felt comfy and cozy as we huddled in for another round of whisky.
A quick history about Ben Nevis via Malt Madness
- 1825 – Ben Nevis was founded by ‘Long John’ McDonald
- 1955 – Ben Nevis Distillery (Fort William) Ltd. bought the distillery and installed a Coffey still to make grain whisky
- 1971 – Long John Distillers bought the distillery back and removed the Coffey still
- 1986 – Ben Nevis closed
- 1989 – Bought by Nikka
- 1991 – Re-opened
As usual it was all done blind, but here’s how the groupings ended up
- Cut Ben Nevis and a bonus
- Cut Ben Nevis and a bonus part 2
- Ben Nevis Cask Strength
An now on to the Ben Nevis!
Cut Ben Nevis and a bonus
1A: Dew of Ben Nevis: 40%
- Nose: Crisp apples, honey, malt, strawberry candy, hay, chalky cocoa and caramel.
- Palate: Apple, honey, malt, strawberry candy, hay, melon, toffee, mint and oil.
- Finish: Med -> Apples, hay, honey nut cheerios
- Overall: B (83-86) On the low side of the B it was sweet and fruit heavy. Really not bad for a blend.
1B: Criagellachie 13 years: 46%
- Nose: Sulfur, copper, toffee, earthy malt, caramel, graham and strawberry tootsie rolls.
- Palate: Sulfur, copper, toffee, earthy malt, caramel, graham and strawberry tootsie rolls. The palte is more earthy than the aroma.
- Finish: Med -> Apples, earth, malt, toffee, copper and strawberry tootsie rolls.
- Overall: B (83-86) Blind I gave his one a high B and it threw me for a loop and reminded me of the mindset needed for these tastings. I love this whisky and have gone through a bottle and a half in the last 2 years, but when tasting it blind it didn’t taste anything like a Ben Nevis and my first thought was “this is a weird Ben Nevis, it’s ok for a Ben Nevis, but kinda misses the style”. My first thought should have been “This is a good whisky and it doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t a Ben Nevis”. That’s the point of a blind.
1C: Ben Nevis 10 years: 46%
- Nose: Butterscotch, caramel, oily nuts, thin and alcohol heavy with some malt, graham and soap.
- Palate: Apples, caramel, soap, cocoa, oily nuts and grain.
- Finish: Med -> Butterscotch, toffee, soap and nuts.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) If it weren’t for that soapy note it would have gotten a B- at least.
1D: Berry’s Ben Nevis 15 years (98-14): 46%
- Nose: Apples, banan, malt, toffee, mineral, spice and caramel
- Palate: Banana, orange peel, cinnamon, malt, oily nuts and smoky char.
- Finish: Med -> Fruit, smoky char and copper.
- Overall: B (83-86) A solid crisp malt. Not crazy complex, but decent through and through.
Cut Ben Nevis and a bonus part 2
2A: The Maltman Ben Nevis 17 years (96-14): 46% – Fino Sherry Butt
- Nose: Buttery fruit, toffee, mineral, lemon peel, cocoa and solvent.
- Palate: Buttery malt, fruit, toffee, minerals, oily nuts and copper.
- Finish: Med -> Apples, butterscotch and minerals.
- Overall: B (83-86) Lots of buttery fruit and sweets happening here. If it weren’t for that solvent note it would be a B+ for sure.
2B: McDonald’s Ben Nevis: 46%
- Nose: Smoke, malt, copper, salted caramel and dried fruit with a bit of mineral.
- Palate: Woody smoke, malt, toffee, copper, salted caramel, apples, nuts and minerals.
- Finish: Med -> Smoke, malt, copper and fruit.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Yum. complex and multi-dimensional.
2C: Signatory Vinateg Ben Nevis 9 years (90-00): 43% – Hogshead
- Nose: Banana taffy, nuts, caramel, malt, fruit and a sweet but earthy aroma.
- Palate: Fruit, toffee, nuts, caramel, malt and oily copper.
- Finish: Med -> Touch floral, taffy, nuts, malt and fruit.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Yum. This is a sweet and malty whisky with a nice bit of copper to balance off of. Quite tasty.
2D: Oban 14 years: 43%
- Nose: Floral, taffy, dried fruit, toffee, char and a bit of sugary sweetness.
- Palate: Toffee, buttery, nutty, fruit, butterscotch and a bit of smoke.
- Finish: Med -> A bit soapy, nutty and smoky.
- Overall: B (83-86) The smoky char and sweetness is nice, but that soapy finish is a bit too strong to keep it fully balanced.
Cask Strength Ben Nevis
3A: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Ben Nevis 19 years: 49.5%
- Nose: Phenolic, oily, nutty, malt, caramel, alkaline, strawberry tootsie rolls and dried fruit.
- Palate: Phenolic, char, oil, dried fruit, caramel, alkaline, copper and strawberry tootsie rolls.
- Finish: Med -> Smoke, dried fruit, cocoa and nuts.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) On the low end of the B+ but it’s tasty stuff; a vibrant whisky.
3B: Grindlay’s Ben Nevis 18 years (97-16): 52.6%
- Nose: Caramel apples, melon, honey, char, nuts, malt, minerals and char.
- Palate: Crisp and fruity, honey, melon, malt, minerals and bit of Tootsie Roll.
- Finish: Long -> Fruit, melon, malt and minerals.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) complex and fruit and a bit earthy. This is a very nice whisky and a fantastic example of Ben Nevis.
3C: Signatory Vintage Ben Nevis 24 years (91-16): 55.7% – Sherry Butt
- Nose: Cider, peaches, apricots, honey, clove, minerals, malt and butterscotch.
- Palate: Major minerality, apple cider, honey, clove, malt, minerals and cinnamon.
- Finish: Long -> Minerals, cider, honey and butterfinger.
- Overall: B (83-86) A slight bit oily, but not all that complex. It’s good, but everything is a bit topical.
3D: Pearls of Scotland Ben Nevis 18 years (97-15): 50.9%
- Nose: Apples, malt, honey grahams, nuts, wafer cookies and char.
- Palate: Apples, malt, honey grahams, nuts, wax, wafer cookies, char and menthol.
- Finish: Long -> Honey, spearmint and toffee.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Wow this is interesting and a touch weird. Might be why I like it.
3E: MacDonald’s Glencoe Ben Nevis 8 years: 58%
- Nose: Roasted apples, honey, spice, malt, minerals, copper, clove and roasted nuts.
- Palate: Roasted apples, caramel, honey, spice, malt, minerals, copper, clove and roasted nuts.
- Finish: Long -> Malt, roasted apples, honey and malt.
- Overall: A- (90-92) Oh man, this thing has layers, by far my favorite of the night.
3F: Exclusive Malts Ben Nevis 17 years (96-16): 51.2% – Sherry Butt
- Nose: Malt, toffee, stewed apples, cinnamon, graham, copper and cocoa.
- Palate: Caramelized bananas, stewed apples, cinnamon, graham, copper, toffee and a light bit of soap.
- Finish: Long -> Saline, malt, toffee, apples, graham, malt and soap.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) A wee bit of char and menthol peek through and if it wasn’t for the soap it might score a bit higher. Sits at a low B+ for now.
Another distillery in the books! Ben Nevis is a great distillery and they put out some great whisky. It’s one of those unsung heroes of whiskydom in the USA, but is well known abroad. I’m happy to have gotten to try so many expressions and I hope you enjoyed reading along!
Till next time, cheers!
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