Whisky Tasting: Ben Nevis

Ben_NevisIt’s taken me a while, but eventually getting round to writing these notes.

Quite unfamiliar is a common response with this distillery, however with such a recognizable name, you’d think more people would drink Ben Nevis…? Perhaps its name is ‘too Scottish’ and sets of an internal alarm – reserved for overtly tourist-orientated creations?

But that’s not so. A distillery full of history and comfortably sat between the Highlands and Speyside. (Something which is referred to several times by host, John Carmichael).

John represents Ben Nevis with a deep-seated passion which is clear to all. This in turn feeds an interested audience who show their appreciation which took John of-guard. We like our whisky here in Yorkshire, and this became clear to John who had travelled a long way to visit.

It’s early September, and as the summer starts to fade, our evenings are filled again with whisky tasting as a visit to the market town of Skipton where The Wright Wine Company hold another sold-out whisky tasting evening.

John gives us a history of the distillery and it’s passions – talking about the two yeasts they use (only distillery to do so?) their short and dumpy stills (my notes say “bumblebee”??), the obligatory Porteus mill and their main aim – a light spirit.

Before long, we’re soon into dram no. 1..

De-Luxe Blend, 12yo
“Our distillery in a bottle”. I like it when people try to encompass all they represent in one go – a signature dish so to speak. It helps benchmark what’s to come.

This has a great nose – loaded with caramel and obvious bourbon influence, but for me, it felt a touch too harsh on the palate and finish. It was our first whisky and may benefit from a while longer in the glass.

10yo Single Malt
With such a traditional distillery, it was no surprise to have a ‘classic 10yo’ in the ranks. This was more like it – a spicy and peppery nose with sherry influence, and a hot, spicy palate too. The finish – hot.

This was a more alive dram – although not layered with complexity. Just straight-forward.

10yo Forgotten Bottling
Why ‘forgotten’ – well, the story goes it was bottles in 1996 and bottles in 2007. However, the cases were left in the warehouse for another six years, before being discovered and now sold. There’s only 700 of them. Or ‘were’ only 700.

This was matured (or just finished?) in a Fino cask, and has a lighter colour than the 10yo Single Malt. It’s much more mellow on the nose and palate too, with hints of spice and matchsticks. (!). The finish – smooth and long.

MacDonald’s Glenco 8yo
We’re back to peppery and hot here – this is firey on both palate and finish – has a harsh nose too.

I have few notes for this, so it cant have done much for me.

10yo White Port
The large asterisks next to this on my tasting notes (which are limited) suggests I like this one. A “classic whisky colour” with a reddy/gold hue.

15yo Sherry Cask
One word: Glendronach. Great nose, typical sherry palate but it’s the finish on this which was described simply as “stunning”. This goes on and on and on.

So good, I gave this one two asterisks!

21yo Ruby Port
Mmmm. Unfortunately the big build up I had hoped for didn’t quite deliver. This is quite strong and generally overwhelming. Very strong on the palate too. A mistake to let this mature so long, or for bottling at high strength? This is a great example for when experimenting with a drop (or two) of water may be well worth considering..

All in all, an interesting night although not my favorite whisky. There were some surprises though – with honorable mentions to 10yo White Port and 15yo Sherry Cask, however a few misses for me too.

Don’t overlook Ben Nevis by any means. There’s a real reason why there’s room for son many distilleries on the market and that’s because we’re all different. The applause which John was met with spoke volumes of the appreciation of his passion, the queue to purchase a bottle or three was testament to the spirit too.

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