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Monday, February 10, 2020

Two Sherry Cask Ben Nevises, one heavily peated

The Maltman (of Meadowside Blending) seems to squeeze out at least a couple Ben Nevii every year. Back in 2016 they birthed my favorite BN ever, a glorious sherry cask for Shinanoya. Just a few months ago, they deposited a 14 year old "Heavily Peated" Ben Nevis upon the marketplace, and I was able to take part in a bottle split.

At the same time, I got in on a split of a 20 year old sherry cask Ben Nevis from Elixir Distillers (formerly known as Specialty Drinks). Any day that I get to try two sherry cask Ben Nevii is a good day. Here are the results of this recent good day:

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Elixir Distillers
Range: Single Malts of Scotland
Age: 20 years old (25 October 1996 - 3 April 2017)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask #: 1528
Outturn: 466 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.1%
(from a bottle split)

Photo from
The nose shows a front line of apricots, limes, dunnage, dried leaves and almond extract. Behind that are dozens of tiny notes, like tobacco, toffee, cantaloupe, shoe polish and miso. It still has some spirity fight to it even after two decades in a sherry cask. The palate is more earthy than smoky. It has a dried fruit sweetness, think dates, dried cherries and dried apricots. There's also a zesty bitterness to it that then carries over to the finish, where the dates, dried cherries, limes and earth follow.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
A nice shift here. There are white peaches, lime zest, kiwi Kasugai gummies and almond extract in the nose, but also a strong whiff of old newspapers. The palate feels bigger than the neat version. The dates are joined by citrus zests, white peaches and a Clynelish-ish industrial greasiness. The finish, happily matches the palate.

There's a good mix of old school and new school, bright cask and dirty spirit. The whisky also takes to water very well. It's a very pleasurable Ben Nevis that doesn't force one to think too hard. I could see a bottle of this being emptied much too quickly.

RATING: 88 (with or without water)


 Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Meadowside Blending
Range: The Maltman
Age: 14 years old (Feburary 2005 - September 2019)
Maturation: refill butt
Cask #: 57251
Outturn: 552 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.9%
(from a bottle split)

Photo from
Cold peat kiln, smoked almonds and a leaf fire warm up the nose, with dried cranberries and pomegranate juice just beneath the haze. Then broken stones and orange zest. Per my notes: "A farm + a bakery. Cow pies?" I regret nothing. One can find quite a cocktail on the palate, which includes earth, stones, ganja and Carpano Antica. Then almond butter and a horseradish bitterness. As per the label, there is a real peat wallop but again it's more on earth than smoke. It finishes with leaf smoke, Underberg, leaf smoke, almond butter and grenadine.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
On the nose, The Barn Is On Fire (sorry cows). Also jelly rings, poppy seed candies, clementines and melted toys. The palate is smokier and figgier than before. Some vanilla fudge, lemon candy and soil in the background. The fruits move forward and the smoke drifts back in the finish.

Though this very modern whisky, with extra peat and extra cask, it's very entertaining throughout. Fun points abound. I'm not sure how "heavily peated" Heavily Peated is, but it doesn't dump the whisky into South Islay. Instead there's a good dose of earth, farm and bitterness, especially when neat. Also thanks to the reasonable abv and double-digit age statement, it's not exhausting and it's not a palate killer. Plus there's still plenty of Ben Nevis to be found within, and that's why I like it.