Ben Nevis 1996 Review

“Good Nose But Too Woody On The Palate”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highland (West)
Brand: Ben Nevis 1996 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 15 Years
ABV: 57.1 %

Colour: Amber with Orange Tones.

Nose: The Alcohol is quite present so give this Ben Nevis some time in the glass. The Nose is Full and Mature and the Sherry Cask did a nice job. I find lots of Chocolate as well as Citrus (Orange Marmalade, Mandarin), Barley Sugar, Honey, Toast, Assorted Nuts and Dried Fruits, Straw from a Cow Stable, light Sulphur, Green Coffee Beans, Oak, Ripe Mango and Peach, Rum and Menthol.

Palate: Strong Delivery. The Oak is very dominating. I also find Dark Orange Flavoured Chocolate, Mandarin, Vanilla, Cocoa Powder, Barley Sugar, Nuts, Marzipan, Toffee, Ginger, Pepper and a hint of Leather.   

Finish: Lots of Oak, Pepper and Ginger as well as some Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Cocoa Powder, Rum, Mandarin, Toffee and a little Mint.  

I added a bit of Water and I found more Dried Fruit and Honey on the Nose. But Palate and Finish do not benefit from added Water. Better sip it neat. 

Rating: 85

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21

General Remarks: The Ben Nevis Distillery was founded in 1825 by Long John MacDonald and is located at the foot of the famous Ben Nevis Mountain, close to Fort William (Inverness-Shire). Since 1989 it's owned by the Nikka Whisky Distilling Co.Ltd (Asahi Breweries). Some of its Malt is used in Blends like Dew of Ben Nevis and Glencoe.

The Ben Nevis I am tasting today was distilled on the 28th of October 1996 and was bottled at Cask Strength in September 2012. It matured in a Sherry Cask  # 1654 out of which 523 bottles were commercialised, some via Independent Whisky Bottler Whiskybase in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. This Single Malt is naturally coloured and not Chill-Filtered. It might still be available at Whiskybase but only just. It costs around 170 US Dollars.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: When tasting Older Single Malts, it happens quite regularly that I like the Nose of these whiskies but find that Palate and Finish do not (fully) deliver what the Nose promises. Is this a coincidence or ain't it? I've read somewhere some time ago that the Whisky Industry invests more in Aromas than in Flavours. But how does that work out practically? I'm not at all at home in Chemistry so if somebody knows a bit more about this please leave your thoughts in the Comments Sector. Take this Ben Nevis for instance. I quite like the fully matured Nose, especially the Chocolate and Citrus notes. And for sure that's the work of the Ex-Sherry Cask. But on the Palate and in the Finish the wood and wood spice of this same Cask are too dominant. In January 2014, I tasted the Ben Nevis 1990 (22 Years) that also matured in an ex-Sherry Cask and was bottled by the Silver Seal Whisky Company. The Nose was similar to today's Ben Nevis but Palate and Finish were more balanced despite the longer time in the Cask. Does this mean that Palate and Finish of longer matured Whiskies benefit from a less active Cask? Or does the New Spirit more rapidly absorb the Aromas of the Cask than the Flavours? Or am I totally thinking in the wrong direction here! Please let me have your thoughts. In any case I conclude that the Ben Nevis 1996 is a well-crafted Single Malt but not quite to my taste as the Wood dominates Palate and Finish. 

Jan van den Ende                                                           February 21, 2015

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