...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ben Nevis 15 year old 1998 single cask 587

Official Ben Nevis 15 year old single sherry casks have been a thing since 2012, but they seemed to have become A Thing about two years ago. Like a $250/bottle-thing that sells out. How or why that happened is mysterious to me because one cannot accuse that Fort William distillery of being widely beloved.

My best guess is positive word of mouth has picked up steam (do words do that?) about the quality of Ben Nevis sherry casks coming from the independent bottlers, especially the Pitlochry-based one. The official single sherry casks are rarer and, well, official, so people who can pay the price then do.

Though I adore Ben Nevis's single malt, I did balk at the chance to buy one of these bottles for $170 because, even at that reduced price, that is some crazy cash for a 15-year-old whisky. Compared to Kavalan that may seem like mere pocket change, but the Taiwanese whisky is priced for a different demographic (conspicuous consumers) than Ben Nevis (nerds).

Though I have reconciled the fact that I'll never own one of these OB sherry casks, it was a nice surprise to find Master of Malt selling samples of them, so I was happy to pay the price (less than a bar pour of Macallan 12) to try A Thing. Or two.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Ownership: Nikka Whisky Distilling Company (part of Asahi Group Holdings)
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: 15 years old (June 23, 1998 to May 1, 2014)
Maturation: sherry butt
Bottles: 629 (that's a big butt)
Cask: 587
Alcohol by Volume: 58.0%
(from a purchased sample)

The nose is loaded with dried currants, prunes, cloves and jelly-filled chocolates. A savory/beefy note grows and grows with time. New tennis ball. Maple syrup. Chocolate syrup. A hint of mustard seed. The insanely rich palate has some of the nose's dried fruit notes, along with a substantial umami/mushroom character. Tart limes, cayenne pepper, pipe tobacco, ginger beer. Then a sudden crash of horseradish bitterness. That's followed by minerals and a little more sweetness. The looooooooong finish is sweet and peppery with loads of both dried fruits and minerals. Hints of herbal bitterness and wood smoke.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv
Water brings a little gunpower out into the nose. Maple syrup, salty ocean air, citrus and a whiff of peat. The palate is big on pepper and fresh ginger. Lots of wood spice. Dark chocolate and plums. The finish is spicy and sweet. Raspberry jam and plum clafoutis.

A monster. Thunderous. It reverberates around the senses, refusing to leave.

And here I was thinking my tastes had gotten all refined, grown beyond the taste for any succulent vulgarity such as this. Wrong.

I dare say this may be richer, more complex and, hell, better than any 20+ year old Glendronach single sherry cask I've had.

Maybe I should try another one of these official 15 year old single sherry casks...

Availability - European auctions
Pricing - Whoa
Rating - 91 (take the heat, drink it neat)