...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ben Nevis 16 year old 1998 Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Ben Nevis + Cadenhead = a reliable next step. I didn't purposely set this series up to have several bourbon casks in a row, so it's just dumb luck that I have a chance to drink a few Ben Nevii that are (theoretically) closer to the spirit. Monday's Blackadder was very good. I'm looking forward to this single bourbon barrel of my favorite Western Highlands single malt.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 16 years old (1998 to Nov 2015)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Outturn: 228 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.2%
(from a bottle split)

The nose begins with a good balance of metal, soil, orange peels and peach skins. Then some ocean notes, fresh cilantro, jalapeños and snuffed candle. At first the palate shows minerals, limes, kiwis and pound cake. But then it makes a beeline for rum. Specifically, Foursquare. And I can't get it out of my head. It finishes with Foursquare, limes, grass and black pepper.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Oh my gourd, now there's Foursquare in the nose. Once I can swim through the rum I find baked apples and toffee pudding. The palate is very desserty, with spice cake and raspberry sorbet. It finishes with berries and brown sugar.

Well, shoot. While there is in fact a 1998 Cadenhead Ben Nevis that was finished in rum casks, this is not the one. I've seen the bottle this came from. Anyway, the neat nose delights again, and the neat palate hits all the right spots for the first two sips. The Foursquare switcheroo is a little odd but not a dealbreaker. My bigger issue is that the whisky gets much too liqueur-like once diluted. So keep this whisky neat!

Availability - Probably sold out
Pricing - €90, I think
Rating - 84 (neat only)

Monday, September 14, 2020

Ben Nevis 15 year old 2003 Blackadder Raw Cask, cask 383

After reviewing two young sherry cask-led Ben Nevii, I'm trying out a run of five consecutive bourbon cask BNs, gradually increasing in age, beginning with this 15 year old hoggie from Blackadder. In my previous review of a Raw Cask single malt I said I liked the idea of this range more than the results, but I wouldn't mind a nude Nevis for the sake of this series.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Blackadder
Range: Raw Cask
Age: 15 years (15 December 2003 to January 2019)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask number: 383
Outturn: 279
Alcohol by Volume: 55.5%
(from a bottle split)

Ah, this is the stuff. The surprisingly complex nose holds stones, ocean, soil, apple pie and vanilla fudge, as well as hints of strawberry jam and apricots. But its earthiness reads the loudest. With time it develops a combo of lychee and medicinal notes that somehow work. The palate is earthy, fruity and sweet, with nectarines and honey. There's also an OBE-style metal-meets-dunnage note to keep the sugars in check, but it gradually gives in as the whisky gets very sweet with time. It finishes with honey, lemon juice, salt and a hint of smoke.

DILTUED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Ocean and earth make up most of the nose with hints of anise and cut grass. The neat palate's sweetness has been washed away, leaving behind minerals, very tart limes and old newspapers. It finishes earth and smoky, with a squeeze of lime juice.

This is one of the better Raw Casks I've had the pleasure of trying. It is in fact not too raw. The nose is excellent, mixing a sturdy earthiness with smaller fruit notes. For me, the palate works better when it's diluted, as the sweetness dims and some heavier, old fashioned notes appear. To be totally vague, I must say this one feels the most "Ben Nevis" of the three whiskies so far. And now my hopes have risen for one stellar bourbon cask to appear in this series...

Availability - Sold out or almost so, was sold in Europe and the US
Pricing - probably north of $150, because Blackadder
Rating - 87

Friday, September 11, 2020

Ben Nevis 8 year old 2009 Single Cask Nation, cask 92

Here's an actual eight year old Ben Nevis, as opposed to Wednesday's 8 year old Nevis-loaded blended malt. This single first-fill sherry cask from the fellows at Single Cask Nation weighs in at 64.8%abv. SCN has bottled several 20+ year old Ben Nevises recently, so it seems like a cool idea to broaden their selection with a baby Ben. But still, that ABV.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 8 years old (Jan 2009 to Jan 2017)
Maturation: first-fill Oloroso sherry butt
Cask #: 92
Outturn: 633 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 64.8%
(from a bottle split)

Indeed it's big, but it's approachable. The nose shows cornbread, caramel and flowers first. Then a whiff of eggs (sulfur) that quickly shifts to gunpowder. Then there's raspberry jam, raspberry fruit leather, burnt prunes and walnuts in butter. The palate's not too hot, but it's a bit tight and almost entirely cask driven. Cocoa and black raisins. Lots of sweetness. Hint of ginger candy. The finish is creamier and nuttier than the palate.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes more expressive: prunes, carob, walnuts, honey, almond butter and something earthy. The sulfur note remains. There's a nice combo of spices and baked pears on the palate, followed by bits of earth, bitterness, pepper and sweet citrus. It finishes very sweetly, with peppercorns and wood spice around the edges.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 2½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The sulfur is almost gone from the nose, but it's all oak at this point. Maybe some almond butter too. The palate begins to blur. Savory and sweet. Pepper and tart limes. The finish matches the palate.

Despite the whisky's age, there's very little distillery character on display because the cask influence is so massive. On a positive note, the nose's sulfur never slips into the palate at any point, so this Ben Nevis will appeal to folks just looking for a feisty sherried thing. Perhaps some additional water experiments may produce better results, say at 57%abv or 43%, but I couldn't find a spot where it topped the Glencoe 8yo. Of course, if you search the internet you'll find my opinion to be in the minority.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $90
Rating - 80

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Glencoe 8 year old Blended Malt

And so......I begin with Glencoe?


  • is produced by Ben Nevis Distillery
  • is sold at the distillery
  • was sold on the distillery's official site
  • now bears the same bottle and label design as Ben Nevis's single malt range
  • was created by the MacDonalds who also founded the distillery

It's Ben Nevis, but not 100% Ben Nevis. Glencoe IS a pure vatted blended malt made up of Ben Nevis and (allegedly) only one other distillery. It's bottled at a burly 58%abv, has loads of sherry cask influence and an actual age statement. And can be found for £40. It's also not swill.

Two years ago, I bought my bottle with the old style label for less than $60 (in total), then opened it for Killing Whisky History, Episode 30, this past March. It's not a casual summer sipper, so the fill level is just below the halfway point as I begin this tasting.

Ownership: Ben Nevis Distillery Ltd.
Brand: MacDonald's Glencoe
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: Ben Nevis plus one other distillery (probably)
Age: 8 years
Maturation: sherry casks and bourbon casks
Alcohol by Volume: 58%
Chillfiltered? Probably not
Color added? No
(from my bottle)

Big raisiny sherry notes lead off the nose with hints of gunpowder and seaweedy peat in the background. It picks up Werther's Originals and grape jam with time. The palate proves more complex than the nose. It starts with raisiny sherry, then adds on tart oranges and lemons, minerals, tart apples and a hint of rosewater. It finishes with dried cranberries, stones, cayenne pepper and tart citrus.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Somehow the nose becomes hotter and tighter, but the sherry element recedes as citrus and apples advance. The pleasant but simple palate holds raisins, peppercorns, mint and honey. It sweetens with time, as does the finish with its honey, oranges and nuts.

Though it's more approachable when diluted, Glencoe shows more depth at full strength. And while it'll never be as pretty as the more familiar, more expensive, sherried cask strength NAS single malts, it has a dirtier edge which makes it more fun for folks with a palate similar to mine. And I think it's safe to attribute the earthy, mineral, peat-ish side to its Ben Nevis content. A good value if you can buy it in Europe.

Availability - Many European whisky specialists
Pricing - £40-£50
Rating - 84

Monday, September 7, 2020

Five weeks, Sixteen Ben Nevises

There comes a time in a whisky blogger's bloggery when the blogger must binge on a favorite distillery's whisky until the very spelling of the distillery's name makes him vomit. I mean, that's the whole point of these public displays. As per Aristotle's thoughts on tragedies we're purging societal poisons via the spectacle.

Right, (95%) guys?

Okay then. Ben Nevis.

Though I execute my tasting sessions with an unhealthy level of mindfulness, the actual write-ups are often quite rushed because this parent's free time is very limited, resulting in missing words, mixed metaphors and daft intros. I intend to treat each post in this Ben Nevis series as a chapter or part of an ongoing exploration, so the introductions may be minimal or will only reference the preceding reviews, culminating in something possibly quackers in the final week as a celebration of my younger daughter's birthday.

This page will be HQ. Below, I will link to each whisky after its review, hopefully in a timely manner, so whatever poor soul who chooses to journey with me can return here for reference purposes.

Here's another fine mess I've gotten me into:

1. Glencoe 8 year old Blended Malt
2. Ben Nevis 8 year old 2009 Single Cask Nation, first fill sherry butt, cask 92
3. Ben Nevis 15 year old 2003 Blackadder Raw Cask, bourbon hogshead, cask 383
4. Ben Nevis 16 year old 1998 Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel

Friday, September 4, 2020

Killing Whisky History, Episode 33: Three decades of J&B Rare, also highballs!

It's time to open up J&B Rare bottles from the Seventies, Eighties and Aughts followed by BONUS highballs, y'alls. The "Rare" is anything but rare, in fact the current version is easy to find but is it worth buying or even consuming neatly, and how does it measure up to earlier versions???

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Sample Sweep: Five dead distilleries


These five samples come from LA Scotch Club events 5-6 years ago. What was I waiting for, you ask? This! This post is what I was waiting for. There's 15-20mL of each which will actually allow me to try them all at the same time. But due to the samples' sizes I'll just be providing grade ranges. The tasting is arranged per the photo, not only in ABV order (sorta) but also per my expectations that I'm trying to repress.

North Port-Brechin 24yo 1981 Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 43%abv

I've tried three North Ports before this, didn't hold any of them in high regard. It's good to see LASC was able to get a Connoisseurs Choice bottle above 40%abv.

Nose - Malt, metal, wet dog, Calvados and grapefruit. Then fruity cinnamon and charred chile skins.
Palate - Malty and lemony, reading stronger than its ABV. Fruity tobacco meets dunnage and minerals. Just a hint of OBE quirkiness.
Finish - Cayenne, citrus, soot and minerals.

Commentary: So of course I find a North Port to adore now. I'm not even going to say "Yeah, but 46%abv..." because this is such a great whisky right where it is balance fruit, earth and industry. Damn.

Rating Range: B+/A- (or 88-90, probably)

Lochside 1981-2004 Lombard, Jewels of Scotland 50%abv

I know very little about Lochside, and even less about Lombard. I probably know more about Lombardy. This intro just writes itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, Diving for Pearls's only Lochside:

Nose - A lovely balance here. Lemons, yellow nectarines and lilac blossoms meet dunnage and wet sand.
Palate - LOTS of citrus, followed by honey and hay. Hints of dunnage and burlap.
Finish - Tart citrus, honey and a peppery zing.

Commentary: As soon as I sipped this I realized this was a special taste off, not just for historical purposes, but because there were at least two great whiskies in the bunch. Such a pretty whisky, this one, with just a hint of darkness at its edges.

Rating Range: B+/A- (or 88-90, probably)

pic from whiskyauction

Glenury Royal 23 year old 1966 Cadenhead dumpy bottle, 53.8%abv

I probably should have read my bottle label when setting up the drinking order because this is from A Dumpy. The Cadenhead dumpies. I mean... Now my expectations are high.

Nose - Much heftier than the previous malts. Citrons and limes. And PEACHES. Peaches. peaches. Honey roasted almonds. A few drops of water are added, and out come the old books, toffee and anise.
Palate - Musty fusty dunnage floor meets dusty OBE. But also molasses, lychee, grapefruit and tart berries. Dilution hightens the fruits.
Finish - Tart fruits, herbal bitterness and molasses.

Commentary: Well shit. Expectations met. I've said this before (probably about old Bowmore or something), but had I been of the previous generation, cutting my teeth on the Cadendead dumpies 30 years ago, I probably would have quit scotch by now and entered a monastery.  

Rating Range: A- (or 91-93, probably)

Glenlochy 17 year old 1977 Cadenhead, green glass, 61.8%abv

Enter the Cadenhead Fire Water Era. Some hydration will be necessary. I've had only a few Glenlochies but I think I liked them all. Here are some actual tasting notes:

Nose - Rocks, wool, wet sand. Shredded wheat and a hint of butterscotch. Dilution brings out some fruits (clementines and white nectarines) while dialing up the wool note as well.
Palate - Buttery cornbread, honey, dried grasses, dates and grape jam. Dilution actually narrows the palate, lots of sugar and grain, some wool, a few berries.
Finish - Very sweet. Dates and grapes. Adding water quiets it down, making it grainy and salty.

Commentary: Unlike the dumpy era, the green glass Cadenheads can be problematic with a lot of limp casks and super high ABVs. Some of the bottlings are pretty good, some are not. While I appreciate this Glenlochy's austere notes, I mostly found it hot and bland. Water might have worked on the nose but it hamstrung the flavors. And next to the Glenury Royal, it just seemed worn thin.

Rating Range: B- (or 80-83, probably)

Linlithgow 25 year old 1982 Signatory for LMDW, Wine Treated Butt #2201, 59.2%abv

St. Mags! I'm two for two with Linlithgow / St. Magdalene single malts (including another '82). Though the cask was "wine treated" the whisky has kept a light gold color, so I think this won't tumble down the Murray McDavid path. Here's to closing strong.

Nose - It has a lean side with stones, grasses and oatmeal, but it's also very sugary, candied. Hints of honey and lemon keep it from going too gooey. Dilution add some variety. More malt, more lemons, a hint of beef stock. Though there's still lots of candy shop.
Palate - Sweet citrus, sweet grains, sweet melons. Hints of grass and plastic. It gets more industrial and mineral with dilution. Some tart limes jump in as well.
Finish - Quiet, warm, plastic and honeydew. With dilution it leans towards stones and peppercorns.

Commentary: Honestly, I was not a big fan of this whisky before I added water to it. But even with dilution, the Linlithgow didn't finish well. I wonder if this "wine treated butt" was actually a brief secondary maturation because there's still something raw and grainy running through the whole whisky. I'm being a bit rough on it here, because it's not that bad. But for Linlithgow, Signatory and LMDW this feels like it's falling short.

Rating Range: B- (or 81-84, probably)

That did not unfold as I'd expected, but the positives far outweighed the negatives. The opportunity to try five such whiskies in one sitting is not something I take for granted. The fact I had samples like this just sitting around is a wonderful thing. I'm getting a little sappy here because there's so much misery right now, and this little bit of material pleasure was needed this past weekend. So I encourage everyone to break into his/her/their dusty samples and drink up for the hell of it. Vive les Dumpies!