...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