...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Ben Nevis 20 year old 1992 Signatory, cask 2310

Two years ago, at a whisky event with a parliament of LA's whisky geeks, I joined a conversation about which distilleries' spirits tend to work best in sherry casks. When I asked some very knowledgable folks, "What kind of magical fairy dust is Signatory sprinkling into their Ben Nev--", I was cut off with one "SHHHH", followed by a "Zip It".

I am here to tell you why I got shushed. Not only did the Symingtons of Signatory acquire what may been the lion's share of 1991 and 1992 Ben Nevis sherry butts, but the resulting whiskies have been very well received.

Now, there have been more than 40 of these single casks and because I (sadly) cannot try all of them, I can't say they're all great, and I have no idea how the newest ones fare. But after I review four of them this week, that will bring my total sampled up to eleven.

First up is a pair of 1992s. Cask 2310 today and cask 2314 tomorrow.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Signatory Vintage
Range: Cask Strength
Age: one day short of 21 years? (July 3, 1992 to July 2, 2013)
Maturation: sherry butt
Bottles: 623
Cask: 2310
Alcohol by Volume: 55.5%
(from a purchased sample)

The nose delivers a surprise early, starting out with a combination of new carpet, plastic, soil, walnuts and sharp cheddar. Over a period of 20+ minutes it shifts gears. Malt, lemon, brine, fresh herbs (tarragon?), hot concrete, tissues and hints of black raisins and cocoa. The palate is massively mineral. There's also plenty of very dry sherry. Limes and oranges with a hint of soot. A hammering of hot horseradish. Even though it picks up bits of toffee pudding and cherries after 30 minutes, the whole thing is unforgiving. A "blade", as I'm sure Serge would call it. Minerals, jalapeño oil, tart lemons and a few familiar sherry-ish dried fruits in the intense finish.

Wow. Will water wear it down?

DILUTED TO ~46%abv
While the hot concrete and green herbs remain in the nose, notes of dried apricot and gumdrops shine a wee light on things. It also picks up brisk notes of fresh ginger and charred beef. The palate remains lean and sharp. A basket of tart limes. Herbs. Plastic. Just a hint of dried fruit sweetness, but otherwise it's the driest mineral(est) white wine you can imagine. The finish keeps its length. And minerals. And pepper oil. More limes than lemons. A whiff of sherry.

A split stone with jagged edges. Approach carefully. But if you're in the mood for this style, it cuts right.

It was not at all what I was expecting, but it's the type of whisky that leaves no room for "hey, what about..." or "what if...". One accepts it on its own terms. And it sold me. The finish, especially, is dynamite. Now, about cask 2314...

Availability - A few retailers in continental Europe
Pricing - €120-€130
Rating - 88