...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ben Nevis 18 year old 1995 Montgomerie's Choice

I've come across three types of Ben Nevis single malts thus far:
1.) Bright and fruity;
2.) Well matched to rich sherry casks; and
3.) Grungy, schizophrenic, phenolic oddities.
I adore them all, but there's a special place in my liver for the third type. Those are not always the easiest drinks, but they're fascinating and their disparate elements somehow really work when they really shouldn't.

A better opening to this post was planned, but I just spent an hour-and-a-half in my basement while tornado sirens wailed and a funnel cloud danced through my town. So there's the intro.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Independent Bottler: Montgomerie's (via Angus Dundee)
Age: 18 years old – November 15, 1995 to February 2014
Maturation: I don't know, maybe a refill American oak sherry cask?
Cask: 776
Bottle #: 362
Region: Highlands (Western)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtered? No
Caramel colored? No
Sample from an bottle I chose for an OC Scotch Club event exactly one year ago.

The color is a very dark gold. The nose starts with oranges, grapefruit and toffee. But mostly it's fresh cilantro. Some smaller notes of fresh ginger, butter and lychee. Picks up some fresh cherry notes with time. The palate is super musty, with a basket full of limes and tart oranges. Then burnt plastic, ginger candy, celery, walnuts and cocoa powder. Ah, and some of those quirky possibly-not-peat phenolics. Then the finish switches to butterscotch and oregano. Oranges, metal and chocolate cake. In later sips there's a lot of bitter chocolate and jalapeño oil. A good length to it.

Then I did the unthinkable and added water to a Ben Nevis!

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
Now the nose has dunnage and mossy notes. Milk chocolate, oranges and limes. The palate is sweeter and more peppery, with a creamier texture. Some citrus candy, as well as toasty oak and grains. It finishes with sweet oranges, cracked pepper and a wisp of smoke.

This fits into category 3, with a little bit of the fruit from category 1. As you'll see from the neat version's notes, there's a whole lotta things going on that don't exactly sound like they would taste good together. But they do. And this isn't the first time I've had a Ben Nevis that made me question whether or not it came from a sherry cask and whether or not the spirit was peated. Whether the answers are in the affirmative or negative has no bearing on my opinion of the whisky. I like it. And if you groove to Ben Nevis's weird tune, then this is your song.

Availability - somewhat available, and mostly through Total Wine & More
Pricing - $80 or $100 depending on your state
Rating - 87


  1. This one is available in WA right now, but with their crazy liquor taxes it's just not a good buy. Now I'm extra bummed about that.

    1. Oh man, this bottling was on sale for $59.99 in Cali when it first hit the shelves. That was a deal. And I missed it. I think it's being sold at the Kentucky Total Wine for $100.

      And, yeah, Washington's liquor taxes are brutal.

  2. It's never boring with Ben Nevis, not even when it's less than good.

    1. The Pearls of Scotland Ben Nevis I tried was not very exciting, that may be because I was judging it against other Ben Nevises.

    2. They're doing something very right and/or very unusual with their distillate. Ben Nevis was the last distillery I removed from our itinerary from last year's trip. There was no way we were going to catch the Islay ferry if I did the distillery tour. If I ever go back to Scotland, I want to go to there, and see if anyone will accidentally spill the beans. Also, I wonder if they have any of those 15yo single sherry casks selling for less than £200.

    3. @Jordan - The BN I reviewed to today wasn't exciting either. I blamed the cask. Though I do think Ben Nevis is fun 90% of the time.

    4. K&L Hollywood has 28 bottles of the 15 yo single cask at $189.99. At that insane price, it's no wonder they still have 28 bottles.

    5. Yeah, those damned tempting 15yo single casks are going for that rate or more in Europe. Brutal.

  3. This cask was bottled in September 2014, not in February. And yes, it is a strange Ben Nevis.