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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ben Nevis 20 year old 1992 Signatory, cask 2314

In yesterday's review of cask 2310, my expectations of a richly sherried Ben Nevis were vaporized by the reality of a intensely tart, mineral, herbal whisky.

As I've been doing throughout this Ben Nevis series, I tasted two Ben Nevises side by side to gain perspective on each. In this case, I tried cask 2310 and 2314. They're both 20 year old Ben Nevises, matured in single sherry butts, bottled by Signatory, distilled on the same day in 1992 and bottled in 2013. And there's only 0.1 point difference in their ABVs. Yet cask 2310 turned out 623 bottles worth of whisky, while 2314 produced only 433.

Let's see how (or if) these factors resulted in different whiskies.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Signatory Vintage
Range: Cask Strength
Age: 20 years (July 3, 1992 to April 10, 2013)
Maturation: sherry butt
Bottles: 433
Cask: 2314
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
(from a purchased sample)

The nose is earthy and herbal, with small notes of horse manure and crumbly autumn leaves. There are also moments of dark chocolate, charred beef and uncooked bacon. There are stone fruits, raspberry jam and lemon surface cleaner. The palate has a nice balance of pepper, tartness, soft sweetness and mild minerals. There are hints of raspberry jam and plum wine, but not as sugary as that sounds. Some mint leaves, bitter soot, toasted oak spices and maybe some rye. The lean but long finish is plenty peppery and herbal, with some good bitterness. A little bit of fruity sweetness and dried berries show up late.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv
The nose has brighter fruit notes, especially some bright lemon zest. Yet it also registers a little bit meatier. A hint of iodine in the background. The palate is similar to the neat version. Some more limes. A little bit of dry sherry. More black pepper. A moldy dunnage note appears in the finish, along with pepper, tart fruity and a subtle sweetness.

Had I tried this one on its own, I probably would have remarked on its austerity and sharpness. But next to cask 2310, this almost registers as a crowd pleaser. While I don't actually think it's a crowd pleaser, it does have more fruits and sweetness. There's a good balance to it, and it swims well. The difference between the two may be linked to the extra evaporation in cask 2314, or different placement in the warehouse, or a zillion other mysterious chemical factors played out over twenty years.

Cask 2314 produced great whisky. Whether this cask is better than 2310 depends on one's palate and mood. While 2310's finish was excellent, 2314's balance and complexity win out. It's a near draw. One point difference in scores is piffle, really.

Availability - ???
Pricing - probably close to €120
Rating - 89