I’m not sure what it is with Ben Nevis. I haven’t tasted many of them and I only ‘almost visited’ the distillery. The ones I’ve tasted weren’t even all good with some truly horrendous whisky in the mix. Still, I get a bit excited when it comes to drams from this distillery. Generally I consider them a bit raw and unrefined, and definitely inconsistent. I guess I like that. Pouring a dram from something you’ve never had before and having no clue to what you’re going to get.
The flip side of that same coin is that I don’t spend money on Ben Nevis, for the exact same reason. You don’t know what you’re going to get and previous results are no guarantee of anything.
That almost visiting the distillery boils down to this. We did the Jacobite rail with friends in 2011. The weather was shite. When the steam loc tried to get back in the hills on the way back from Mallaig it couldn’t climb the tracks since those were cold and wet, and the train didn’t have enough power and grip. It took the driver 10 tries to make the hill (I kid you not) and when we got back to Fort William it wasn’t 4 PM, it was almost 7. Bummer, no distillery visit for me. And I don’t even like Harry Potter!
Ever since then I’ve had some sort of fascination for the distillery. But don’t do the train ride. Especially since: You can’t see the nice train when you’re in it. You can also not really see the Glenfinnan bridge, with the weather being as it was you could also not see the scenery. Just drive to Glenfinnan, time it well and snap a picture of the train on it.
Anyway, a pack of samples from Abbey Whisky came in yesterday and my eyes were drawn to the Ben Nevis right away. I needed to try it, so here that goes!
Big on sherry with some strong spicy notes beneath the initial layer of sweetness. It’s leathery with a hint of engine grease. There’s bananas and dates too, but I can barely pick up any direct oak. A lot of sherry oak influence, but not oak itself. Incredibly rich, but also slightly restraint. In a good way. Is there mango too? And a slight hint of smoke.
The palate is fierce. There’s a lot of sherry cask spiciness going on. Curry spices with coriander seeds, and many other kinds of spice. Rather drying after a couple of seconds with a clear smack of oak here. The sherry is present with a certain syrupy mouth coating feel to it. The banana is grilled now, and I still get the mango like sweetness. Some charcoal too.
The finish is fierce too with a very warming (almost burning) heat in my throat. Thick on your tongue to an almost sticky level. Not cloying though, that’s something else. The fruit is present, the spices are present, the oak too but is a bit toned down. It’s a long finish.
Wow. I like this one. A lot. It’s on the wishlist now. The sherry doesn’t overpower the rather raw distillery character and I have the feeling I am drinking Ben Nevis, and not just overproof Oloroso or PX. The sweet fruits combined with the Indian spices work very well for me. I also like that the oak is kept in check and I think that’s partially due to it being a Hogshead instead of a Butt.
Great stuff. Good picking by the lads and lasses at Abbey Whisky. It’s even affordable to current standards priced at £ 64.95 (some € 81.25).
Ben Nevis 16yo, 1997-2013, 55%, Sherry Hogshead, 96 bottles – Abbey Whisky’s Rare Casks, available from Abbey Whisky (obviously) at £ 64.95
Thanks to Abbey Whisky for sending a sample! Love it!