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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ben Nevis 17 year old 1996 The Nectar of the Daily Drams

Ben Nevis Week One continues. I'm pretty confident that the single malts I'm reviewing today and tomorrow were pulled from ex-bourbon American oak casks. They have different vintages, ages, bottlers and ABVs; and, again, trying them side-by-side highlights each one's unique characteristics.

Living in the US hinders the whisky enthusiast's knowledge of the fun malty stuff happening on the European continent. So from what I've gathered, The Nectar is a Belgian importer and distributor, while Daily Drams is one of their bottling series.

This particular whisky has a low ABV for its age and I don't think the bottle states that it's a single cask, nor cask strength. Whiskybase lists that info, but I see nothing about it on the label. I'm bringing this up because while most indie bottlers make a point to focus on sexy phrases like "cask strength" and "single cask", The Nectar doesn't do so for this whisky. Because the alcohol content is low and there's no listed bottle count, one is left wondering if this was a small batch and/or diluted.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: The Nectar
Series: Daily Drams
Age: 17 years old (1996-2014)
Maturation: ex-bourbon cask(s?)
Alcohol by Volume: 49.3%
(from a purchased sample)

Nice to see a straw color on a 17yo whisky. The nose has two sides that mingle well. The patrician element is made of lemon yogurt, peaches, melons, green apples and fresh butter. Its plebeian side smells of old machinery and sweat. With time, the fruit takes the lead, but the dingier notes stick around. A duality exists in the palate as well. There's Nevis Nice: melon, toffee and tapioca. Then there's Nevis uNusual, with metallic fruit (yep, that again) and industrial funk. With time, it also picks up some lawn and bitterness. There's a good length to the finish. Melon Jolly Ranchers and honeydew. Lemon bars. A good bitterness balances out the sweetness.

It feels a bit fragile, so I'll keep the dilution to a minimum.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv
Wow. Yes, this. The nose has pineapple, mango, dried apricots, malt, hints of barbecue and oceany phenolics. You know, old Laphroaig. [Editor's note: I'm an asshole.] The palate is similar to the nose, and adds on some nice bitterness and sweet lemons. Hints of fresh ginger and caramel sauce. It finishes with lemons and tropical fruit. Hints of ginger beer and bitter smoke.

The whisky was fine when it was neat. The interplay between the dark and light notes worked well. It finished nicely. But adding just a little water (approx. 1:15 water:whisky) made it reeeeeeallllly good. It's the difference between a B- and B+ whisky. If I had a bottle, I'd be tempted to lower the whole thing to 46%abv. Of course, I don't have a bottle because the Beneluxians wisely cleared these from shelves three years ago.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - maybe €90? 
Rating - 88 (with water)