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Monday, June 10, 2019

Ben Nevis 10 year old 2008 Cask Strength batch 1

There is a remarkable-if-true interview by "Kolomon" with Ben Nevis Distillery's Managing Director on Whiskybase's page for Ben Nevis 10 year old 2008 Cask Strength batch 1, that I recommend you read.

What's potentially remarkable about the conversation isn't the way Nikka chooses to do business, but rather that Colin Ross would be so candid. Still the Nikka-Ben Nevis relationship is worth considering. Nikka has been using most of Ben Nevis's malt in their "Japanese" blends and blended malts for some time. Considering just the logistics of that, it seems prohibitively expensive. In fact, at some point I'd imagine that building a new distillery in Japan would save the company considerable expense in the long term. This seems even more obvious considering Ben Nevis 10yo vaporized off the shelf at $60-$80 a pop, while the Nikka whiskies using Ben Nevis malt are considerably cheaper. Yet the Ben Nevis brand gets punished by this process. Nikka clearly needs a malt source, but there has to be a wiser, more profitable solution than the current one.

I'm certain there are unknown factors involved, but the above was just my two cents.

This cask strength 10 year old was released when the regular 10 year old stock ran out. Bottled at a bruising 62.4%abv, it's a mix of bourbon, sherry and wine casks. It costs twice as much as the regular 10yo. Even Ross says in the if-true-interview that this pricing is unfortunate. Luckily for me, local Ben Nevis lover, Whiskysite was selling samples of it, so I was able to try it.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Ownership: Nikka Whisky Distilling Company (part of Asahi Group Holdings)
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: 10 years (2008-2018)
Maturation: first fill bourbon, sherry and wine casks
Alcohol by Volume: 62.4%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose starts with prunes, black raisins, honey and soil. There's also a machine shop / hot engine note in the midground. Maybe a hint of cabernet sauvignon? The nose simplifies with time, focusing on honey, lemons and soil. The palate has a gorgeously silky texture and is very drinkable considering the enormous ABV. There's a lot of cask action here. Dried berries, berry jam and nut butters. Very little peat. Honey, orange candy, hard toffee and salt. Dark chocolate, raspberry jam, raisin bread, honey and orange candy in the finish.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or > 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
There's honey, hot fudge and black raisins up front in the nose. Then mint candy, lemons and dates. With time it tilts heavily towards gunpowder. The palate is all cask: wine and wood. Very sweet, jammy and loaded with raisins. An earthy note reads more like sulphur than peat. Eucalyptus. Sourness. The good texture remains. The finish is very winey and sugary, with some eucalyptus and pepper.

If scotchwhisky.com is accurate, then Ben Nevis goes into the cask at 63.4%abv. This 10 year old is 62.4%, so the angels went for water rather than alcohol. They were telling us something. And that was, "Keep water out of this whisky". Really, they said that.

So on the plus side, this is best when neat. On the other hand, it's aggressively cask driven. That's great for folks who are not fond of Ben Nevis's character. It's less sexy for those of us looking for a solid Nevis hit. The whisky's texture helps rescue the palate from being just another sherry bomb, and the nose does have the odd industrial stuff some of us enjoy. It's still a good winesky, but it isn't worth 2 bottles of the regular 10 year old.

Availability - European specialty retailers
Pricing - $120-$140
Rating - 85 (neat only)

1 comment:

  1. I've heard that this one really benefits from time left open in the bottle... Which is tough to do with a sample. Agreed it's a bit overpriced, but given the rarity of unadulterated Ben Nevis these days and riding Scotch prices, I'm not surprised at the $100+ price tag.