Ben Nevis Distillery Bottlings Tasting Notes

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Ben Nevis

McDonalds Traditional Ben Nevis 46%


Tasted: July 2012

This is a 5 year old single malt from Ben Nevis made up of present style Ben Nevis mixed with some more heavily peated Ben Nevis. The purpose is to replicate the style of whisky sold in the 1880s.

The nose opens with the classic distillery character of rich, bready notes and malt, followed by a touch of manury peat, buttery oak, shaving foam like banana and some gentle sherry notes. The aromas do have a sort of edgy, rustic kind of character and there is definitely a youthful component with plenty of developing cereally notes.

The palate is soft and rusticated with a touch of burnt caramel up first. Youthful but pleasantly rounded with some rich, bready, apricot fruit and a touch of peat. The peat note rumbles on, becoming rather coal smoke like towards the finish with a reasonable degree of phenols and earth. Ever so slightly bitter on the finish, but not excessively so. In conclusion a lot more interesting on the palate than the nose.

Ben Nevis 10 year old 40%

Tasted Apr 2004

Immediate scent of pine nuts, earth, creamy oak, cooked dough and a malty sweetness.

On the palate it displays bready, nutty flavours with a bitter sweet edge. Short, pleasant finish with a hint of salt.

Ben Nevis 10 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: Oct 2011

A pleasant leafy sherried nose with a balancing edgy, granity note and sweet barley. Quite full with the characteristic doughy/ maltiness coming through along with a hint of violets. Pleasant and unpretentious.

The palate is soft and full, opening with some fleshy fruit and barley. Gently sherried and malty on the middle with a balancing granity note. Good honeyed length with a soft spiced finish.

Ben Nevis 10 year old 46%

Re- Tasted: Apr 2015

A nose of sulphur and musty sherry. Very sherried and balsamic with herbal dried fruit, confected, sweet caramel and a light violet note.

The palate is fusty and herbal. Hugely caramelised (bitter) with bitter spice. No finish. Dreadful and flat. A bad batch.

Ben Nevis 1996 (10 year old) 46%

Refill Sherry Butt/ Dist: Sept 1996 Btl: Feb 2007/ Tasted: Sept 2014

Apparently 700 bottles were returned to the distillery and forgotten about for 6 years.

A nose of white wine vinegar, under ripe peach, apricot and a light sulphur blemish. No distillery character, lightly vegetal, but plenty of not very clean wood!

The palate is soft and a little bready with honey, apricot. A little acerbic and very woody on the middle. Tart, bitter and hot finish with a dirty wood after-taste. Started off quiet pleasant but went downhill from there! 

Ben Nevis 2002 10 year old ‘White Port Matured’ 56.4%

White Port Cask 334/ Dist: 2002 Btl: 2012/ Tasted: Nov 2013

An intense and woody nose with barley, straw and lightly oxidised white grape aromas. Give it time and aeration and hints of sweet apricot, banana, honey and grass emerge. Lightly spiced with a pleasant sweetness and with time the distillery bready, malty character becomes apparent.

The palate is intense and woody, opening with earthy, straw like barley, dried white fruit, white liquorice and apricot along with a light citrus and grassy note. Quite full and lightly oiled with the bready, malty notes coming through on the middle. Good length with a lovely citrus twang and hints of coffee and light spice in the finish.

With water the aromas become crisper and more classically Highland in character. The white liquorice notes are a little more prominent as are the grassy notes. The fruit is a little juicier and hints of stem ginger have emerged. The palate has, like the nose become crisper and fresher with a greater emphasis on the citrus and less on the dried white fruits. A little granulated sugar emerges on the middle. Quite herbal on the finish now with a touch of white chocolate in the finish.

Ben Nevis 2002 (12 year old) White Port Cask 56.3%

White Port Cask 336/ Dist: Dec 2002 Btl: Feb 2015/ Tasted: Nov 2015

Intense, herbal-coffee Oloroso nose. Taught citrus goes head to head with the prunes and orange conserve. With time some balsamic treacle, tea leaves and iron notes appear. Water emphasises the maturity.

Quite dry on the palate with the treacle adding a little sweetness but the bitter tannins and alcohol make it very austere. Quite herbal and coffee’d with dried fruit and stewed prunes. Water makes it sweeter and emphasises the herbal Oloroso (as if it needs it!) (The finish is intense and alcoholic but the uber sweet treacle offsets to a certain extent allowing the big Oloroso fruit to linger. Water softens and brings out the orange conserve notes. In conclusion: A big, herbal sherry monster. Classy and blemish free but as I’ve said before I find it hard to get excited about this type of whisky. [tasted blind – It’s a white port cask not an oloroso cask!]

Ben Nevis 1998 (15 year old) Single Cask 56.1%

First fill Sherry Butt 586/ Dist: Jun 1998 Btl: Oct 2013/ Tasted: Nov 2013

The nose opens with some castor sugar sprinkled barley but before long we’re entering tropical fruity city! – Apricot, guava, banana, coconut, kiwi, melon and mint. Big, broad and seriously fruity with plenty of creamy oak and gritty, lightly coffee’d tannins.

The palate displays plenty of lightly tannic, coffee’d wood notes along with hints of barley, fleshy apricot, banana and gentle spice. The alcohol nips and cleanses the palate allowing the spices to return along with some oily malt and herbs. The finish is quite dry due to the wood and alcohol combination but it does have a lovely natural graininess.

A drop of water emphasises the oils and herbal notes. Toning down the oak to a degree makes the nose seem fruitier and allows a lovely, liquid honey note to emerge. The palate is softer and sweeter, now showing some roasted coffee and more of the creamy oak. The oils have increased and temper it’s fruity character somewhat, definitely eradicating some of its exuberance. However it does have a lovely, spicy finish.

Ben Nevis 2000 (15 year old) Single Cask 59.7%

Refill Sherry Puncheon 737/ Dist: Sept 2000 Btl: Nov 2015

The nose is very coffee’d and herbal with an almost wheaty darkness. Hints of prune, walnuts and 90% cocoa powder. Hugely chocolaty but vibrant with late hints of perfumed barley and honey.

Dusty, tannic and quite chocolaty on the palate with hints of raisinated fruit. Although the alcohol is quite hidden on the nose it isn’t on the palate and the tannins bitter too. Water softens but makes it less interesting. The finish is surprisingly sweet with date, prune, raisins and a touch of rose petals and bittering oak. Ideally it needs a drop of water but then you lose that lovely intensity.

Ben Nevis 1990 21 year old Ruby Port Finish 59.8%

Aged for 13 year in Refill Hogsheads, then 8 years in ex-Port pipes.

Dist: 1990 Btl: 2011/ Tasted: Nov 2013

Sweet, syrupy aromas of red fruits, straw and earth. Quite manurey and smoky with some warm peppery spices, dried cherry and dried cranberry. With time some malty, bready distillery character can be discerned.

The palate opens with the syrup coated red fruit, earth, straw, malt and gritty tannic spices. Hints of dried raspberry, cherry and plum follow. Quite piquant and tannic on the middle but the granulated sugar and syrup balances. Long, earthy, spicy, red fruit finish.

A drop of water brings out some burnt toffee but has made the nose simpler. The palate has become sweeter with the red fruit taking on a conserve-like character. Still quite spicy with more pepper. Still reasonably tannic, but those tannins are dustier now with a light midnight violet note in the finish.

Ben Nevis 1990 (21 year old) Ruby Port Finish 59.8%

Aged for 13 year in Refill Hogsheads, then 8 years in ex-Port pipes.

Dist Nov 1990 Btl: 2011/ Re-Tasted: July 2014

A stinky and earthy nose of macerated plums, damson, manure and damp straw. Whor! Port! Treacle coated redcurrant/ cherry along with a light vanilla note.

The palate is very dry and very tannic. Green wood and bitter chocolate and alcohol notes all over the place! Oh my god! Mouth puckering is not the word for it. It feels like all the moisture has been sucked out of ones mouth! Straw-like and manurey with a very herbal redcurrant/ cherry finish. It feels like it has spent its entire life in port!

A drop of water makes no difference at all to the nose. It does however soften the palate a little with the red fruit becoming jammier with hints of graphite and coffee now appearing. A little easier going now, thankfully but it’s still fairly tannic and herbal.

Ben Nevis 1990 (23 year old )‘The Presidents Cask’ 56.4%

Bottled to celebrate 25th Anniversary of Nikka ownership

Cask No2/ Dist: Sept 1990 Btl: Jun 2014/ Tasted: Sept 2015

A tightly wound, pungent, coffee laced nose with honey and barley so thick you could spread it! Herbal with oxidised, stewed fruit (plum and prune) and sub rye-like notes. A sort of sour mash and buttery oak note appears with time. Water releases juicy citrus and the dusty oak.

Neat it’s a bit too alcoholic and it definitely needs some water to release the juicy barley, citrus and honey. Hints of coffee, stewed fruit and gentle but bittering spices follow. However it is the sawdusty, mature oak which steals the show. Long and citric with the rye-like herbal notes lingering. In conclusion: Add a little water and this beauty unwinds into a sublime whisky.

Ben Nevis 1984 25 year old Single Sherry Cask 54%

Sherry Cask 98/35/12

Dist: Dec 1984 Btl: Dec 2010/ Vatted into sherry in 1998/ Tasted: Nov 2013

A monstrously huge, herbal Oloroso nose. There are a few off notes which blow off fairly quickly, so I’ll forgive it this slight blemish . After spending this length of time in a sherry butt there is no shortage of sweet liquorice coated raisins, dried plum and date with bark, manure and cinnamon along with hints of fern, menthol and loam. Monumentally deep with burnt, brown sugar, light coffee and a touch of marzipan.

The palate is soft, gentle and mature with a pure Oloroso character. There is plenty of herbal, green oak and green nuts along with raisin, prune, oily liquorice, dark chocolate and building tannins. Quite piquant on the middle followed by a huge wave of mouth-filling toffee/ liquorice/ treacle. That piquant alcohol allows the palate to retain a degree of freshness. Very long with some dusty but sweet tannins plus spicy, cardamom and green nuts showing in the finish.

Dilution brings out some dusty, slightly violet notes. The palate has become like liquid treacle. Very velvety but a little simpler now. Still very concentrated and deep with a long dunnagy, mushroomy finish displaying that same dusty spiciness as the nose.

Ben Nevis 1990 (25 year old) Mr Taketsuru’s Cask 61.3%

Rejuvenated ex Bourbon barrel No1

Dist: Sept 1990 Btl: Oct 2015/ Tasted: Apr 2016

The nose is intense and surprisingly youthful herbal coffee with hints of smoked walnut, earth and rye-like spice. There’s a definite ‘raw cask’ feel to the aromas but the alcohol is well integrated. Water brings out some citrus notes.

The palate is initially quite soft but the edgy, herbal sherry arrives quickly. Hints of malt, liquorice, walnuts follow. There was no way that level of alcohol was going to be contained! Water makes it a little homogenous but pleasantly mouth0filling and juicy. The finish is eye wateringly alcoholic and herbal with a lingering spicy, rye-like character. Water softens and lengthens. In conclusion: Raw, wild and untamed, unless you add water! Thoroughly enjoyable and memorable.


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