...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Ben Nevis 27 year old 1990 Le Gus't, cask 5

When I had first heard this whisky had spent 12 years in a sherry cask then 15 years in a port pipe, I had two simultaneous thoughts:

1.) WTF?, with the "W" = "Why"
2.) Well, at least someone is having fun out there.

I wanted to try it, but its price was too prohibitive for any version of WTF. Happily I was able to get in on a bottle split a couple months ago. As you can see below, the liquid's color is......shall we say, vibrant.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Le Gus't
Series: Selection XV
Age: 27 years old (9 November 1990 - 10 June 2018
Maturation: 12 years in sherry cask(s), then 15 years in a portpipe
Cask #: 5
Outturn: 736
Alcohol by Volume: 58.9%
(from a bottle split)

It's still whisky, at least in the nose. While plenty of berry jams and candies waft up from the glass, there's still a distinct musty Ben Nevis note in the mix. There are also green grapes and honeydew. After 30+ minutes additional notes of raspberries and wet dogs appear. It's like Bruichladdich Black Art but better! *ducks flying pans* The palate is plenty hot, and actually sort of hoppy. There's also a strong peppercorn note which is something I usually associate with extra young spirit. It's not as sweet or tannic as I'd expected. There are hints pickle brine and industrial smoke. It gets port-ier with time. Lots of berry jams, again. It finishes with black pepper, brine, heat, industrial smoke and some dried berries.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Berries and wine in the nose, then fruity cinnamon, grape bubblegum and PX. A slight peat smoke in the background. More berries than brine in the palate. It's sweeter now, and the tannins still don't overwhelm the rest. The quirky phenolics and hoppy notes remain. It finishes sweet, peppery, hoppy and slightly metallic.

It's neither a hot mess, nor "so bad it's good". It's as if the Ben Nevis spirit is too wild to be totally submerged, so it lurches out in the form of pickles, dark smoke and beer when one least expects it. So, no, the whisky isn't a well balanced, fully formed thing.

The casketry makes one wonder. It takes more than one sherry cask to fill port pipe, maybe even three hogsheads. How strong was the whisky going into the port pipe? And what kind of warehouse was it? That's a high ABV for 27 total years, and a very high outturn for 15 years in a port pipe. The result is something quite modern, lots of fortified wine extraction sitting atop some rawness. But again, it almost succeeds despite all this because it's Ben Nevis.

I don't adore the thing as much as the Whiskybase community does, but I like it more than Sjoerd did. Though I don't know how to score it, I'm happy with having only bought 2 ounces worth.

Availability - European specialty retailers, though it's close to selling out
Pricing - €180-€210, I think
Rating - 83 (maybe?)