Thanks to /u/boyd86 for bringing this dram to our latest tasting (that I’ve written up).
I will now try and explain the current situation of buying alcohol in Ontario.
Please don’t leave. (cue Bush clip of “Please clap” here).
Okay, so back in 1916, Ontario kept up it’s Tsundere love of the US by implementing Prohibition of Alcohol. Which ended up lasting until 1927, when someone recommended that instead the province setup official channels to sell alcohol.
However as a balance in the province, it wasn’t that well receive. Three years earlier the province had voted 51.5% to not sell alcohol. Suffice to say, as a country that had used their whisky making abilities as collateral to form an independent (ish) nation, people in Ontario thought that alcohol was bad.
So having a government sell alcohol, and eventually become the number 1 buyer in the world (until recently, when Costco took over), while being created to appease anti-alcohol people, made for strange bedfellows.
For instance, until 1962, you needed a permit to buy alcohol.
If you bought too much alcohol, you were labeled a “drunkards”, and weren’t legally allowed to have alcohol. After 1927, no judicial system was needed to be added to this list.
So at least most people could walk in and choose their alcohol, right? Nope! Not until 1969 were you allowed to even see it, and had to ask a clerk to go pick it up based on just asking for whatever they had.
Recently the company has expanded, embracing the idea of having more alcohol in the 2000s. Yes, it took that long.
What does all of this have to do with Ben Nevis 18 The Maltman? I’m getting to that.
Part of the pricing/taxes in Ontario is a hatred of alcohol. And as whisky fans, you know that, with some exceptions, whisky tastes better when it has higher alcohol.
If you go looking for a Ben Nevis with the cask number of 789, you will find two bottlings. This, in and of itself, is not crazy. You will also notice one is 19 years old and 47.5%, and one is 18 years old and 46%. Seems a tad odd.
Also this comes from a vintage that recently whisky nerds have named a legendary year for Ben Nevis, 1996. So who would water it down?
If you guessed the LCBO, then you get why I explained the above. Because they think that a bit of extra alcohol will make people alcoholics. Because they used to brand people, without a court, as alcoholics, based on their pricing habits.
Oh, and they are taking over the legal marijuana trade and sourcing from friends of the legislature who have had their weed described as “terrible” by people who needed it for medication. Great. Another 80+ years of crap.
But what did the whisky taste like? It’s fully fino sherry matured. Let’s see, shall we?
Price: No longer available
Wood-type: Fino sherry cask
Cask No. 789
No. of bottles: 205
Distillation Date: May 1996
Bottling Date: July 2015
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Rich strawberry syrup, molasses, grape, light honey/cereal
Interesting nose. It has the lightness of an Oloroso finish though with more sugar and hutzpah. And you need hutzpah in your life, otherwise you agree to a compromise to prohibition and never update it in 80 years.
There’s no salt, like my feelings about alcohol in Ontario.
Nice grain element, good grape and molasses going on.
Taste: Orange, brine, anise, molasses, mint, pineapple
Ah, there’s the salt now. It’s a nice added bonus to the orange and sweet elements. Hint: If your baking calls for no salt and no salted butter, add 1/2 a tsp of salt and it’ll perk it all up. Also don’t implement an anti-alcohol system to sell your alcohol.
Interesting acidity going on here, though it’s missing some of the syrup elements that the nose had.
Finish: Orange juice, pineapple, brown sugar, cereal, arugula
More orange! Less like a dessert, now more akin to a marinade, like a Tex-mex one that uses tequila and orange juice.
Interesting pepper at the end, though it leaves me wanting something to finish it all off.
Conclusion: An interesting dram that has some watery moments and may be missing some of its complexity. It’s sweet, fruity, and would be perfect for a summer day instead of a nice cocktail. I enjoyed it, however I would prefer to try the other cask, German picked by an actual whisky company, who taste things before picking them.
So it was nice to sip on, and pretty flavourful, however I feel like it needed a bit more.
Scotch review #856, Highland review #138, Whisky Network review #1375