Despite the prevalence of NAS branded malts, the quality of entry-level core range malts with age statements from distilleries such as Deanston, Aberlour, Ardbeg and Bunnahabhain for example, is currently flying high. This Ben Nevis 10yo is another excellent example.
As I rarely refer to the colour of whisky, its unlikely I’ve ever given mention to the colour of the glassware, let alone label design. I do however find the smoky browny/green glass bottle with its substantial & weighted dark wooden cork top, coupled with the label style that combines traditional & contemporary design, most pleasing. I’m surprised Ralfy only [recently] gave this 83 but I hear strong rumours of wild batch discrepancies.
- N: A unique nose that I hope my descriptors will reflect. We have then: mossy malt, wet flint, damp yet firm chalk, tobacco, cocoa and carbolic/struck match/ash for starters. The oloroso sherry is subtle yet undeniable, balanced by malty old brown leather with a cracked sheen, kitchen roll, Smarties, an array of mainly dried fruits & roots [ginger, radish & bananas], a hint of sick [yep], larger/beer-like Rusks, a liquorice stick, ruby-streaked mustard salad leaves, linseed oil-covered All-bran, Vegemite-covered oak, one baked beans tin [empty but un-rinsed], microwave lasagne, barley bio-fuel with a unique woody=sweet-leathery=compost character,… I’ve gone on too long. Absolutely all sorts here, yet despite all of these quirky details, we are in the main talking fundamentally of a vegetal barley-oat sugar-icing malt, with Smarties casings being the prevalent top note thereafter. Super.
- T: [Hemp] oily-slick yet dry-vegetal sweet>herbal, raisin=sultana/malty-distillate led-barley juice – one with a flavoursome kick straight off with a hint of burnt match box. There isn’t a complex not sustained journey but in the initial stages we see it becomes paper-waxy into cocoa-All bran with woody<chocolate, Shredded Wheat>digestive biscuits and still with those vegetal sugars to the finish. Every sip displays varied colours within the colour spectrum unique to this bottling. Chip shop grey paper appears as the mouth becomes mildly salty [dry salty], but with plenty of caramel>toffee & malty-porridge sugars in the mix throughout. And there’s some oak here, equal to the brilliantly precocious distillate. Neat it becomes [Thai curry] peppery but a few drops sorts that it. In your face deliciousness.
- F: Soon moves on, the oak turning to a lime-y cereal liquorice stick. Limey sugar granules & a pint of larger top turning to easter egg chocolate before releasing some of the coating from iced almonds as well as icing sugar for sure. Finishes waxy and cocoa<caramac/malty & vanilla-light with hints of violets, possibly Rich Tea & more thin slivers of ginger cake. More grey paper/[bees]-waxy-dry clean finish with a touch of powdered [skimmed] milk powder and predominantly more of those Smarties casings.
- C: Close to becoming a modern classic albeit falling away from the 90’s due to an almost collapsing, fading arrival straight into the finish. I’ll be wanting to buy another bottle straight away however. Recommended, batch dependant.
Scores 88 points