Today we’re looking at a Ben Nevis 17 year old release from the Cadenhead Small Batch series. These Cadenhead bottlings began showing up in Texas about three years ago and, so far, my experience with their selections have been extremely positive.
The term Small Batch, as used by Cadenhead, means that no more than a few barrels were combined to produce a particular release. Given that this Ben Nevis 17 yo release has only 252 bottles, at 54.1% abv, there were probably two, perhaps three barrels that were combined to achieve this out-turn. The whisky was distilled in 1996 and bottled in 2014.
Ben Nevis is another one of those lesser-known distilleries with very few official releases, at least here in the US.From what I’ve read, though, Ben Nevis is very popular in Japan, so there may be some official bottlings there.
Review: Ben Nevis 17 year old, Cadenhead Small Batch, Distilled 1996, Bottled 2014, Matured in Bourbon Hogshead, 252 Total Bottles, 54.1% abv
Color: White wine
Nose: (N) Hay, orange zest, toffee, cardamom, sandalwood, rosewater, green peppers, and just a hint of smoke. After a few minutes, I also get some apples mixed with a hint of vanilla, and more of the earthy peat funkiness that I frequently get with Ben Nevis – something slightly vegetal, like damp tree bark. The fruits continue to pick up steam with time: more of the red apples, overripe bananas and honeydew melon, and orange juice. (W) The high abv doesn’t really detract from this whisky, but adding a few drops of water does bring out more of the orange notes, and more of the peaty aromas. The notes seem a little more vibrant, too. Red apples, the rosewater and sandalwood, toffee.
Taste: (N) Warm, but not too hot; surprisingly approachable, and very good, even at full strength. Vanilla cream, warm croissants, orange juice, more citric notes in the middle with orange and lime zest adding some “zing” (that’s a highly technical term!), cardamom, the red apples, and a soft peat smoke note. (W): Okay, I said that this was very good neat, and it is, but while the nose improved a bit with water, the palate just takes off with the addition of a very little water and several minutes. If you jump in right after adding the water, there is a cedar shaving note that dominates the fruits and other flavors. Give it 10 or 15 minutes, though, and you’ll have a vastly different – and superior – experience. The arrival becomes sweeter and what little heat there was disappears, leaving you with a really beautiful whisky! Orange juice, lime zest, rosewater, fresh-baked brioche, cream, red apples, a soft peppery spice, vanilla toffee, cardamom, a bit more of the earthy peat, and just a soft smokey note that lingers around the edges. While my flavor descriptions are very similar, the whisky, with water, just becomes much more vibrant, bigger, richer, and more complex.
Finish: Toffee and orange notes dominate the early finish, then it shifts to the fruits, both sweet and citric, before the red apple and toffee notes mingle with the smoke to bring it to a close. Good length to the finish, too.
Overall: The Ben Nevis 17 year old is a very good whisky! This is why I’ve become a big fan of this distillery! Complex and inviting, especially with water – yes, I know I said it didn’t need water early in my notes! It doesn’t need much water, but water just does this one wonders! There is just a touch of peat and smoke to tickle your nose and tongue, but not enough to put off someone who is not a peat fan. Loads of fruits, at times sweet, at others tangy, with enough movement to keep you engaged!
Distillery: Ben Nevis
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: 17 years
Maturation: Bourbon Hogshead
Price: $126.31 (Specs, 2014)
Availability: Possibly a few left on the shelves
Sample Source: My own bottle