Thanks to /u/ScotchGuy_TO for pouring me this dram.
Went to a tasting. This was dram number 4. Check my history for reviews for whiskies 1 through 3. It was a whole day affair, with breaks in between “groups”. Make sense? Great. Let’s get into it.
If you’ve been following my reviews, first off, thank you, and second off, you’ll notice that over the past few years I’ve taken any chance to drink Ben Nevis that I can get.
Well… “any chance” is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not rich; I do okay, probably better than okay given the recent insane inflation, but I can’t auto buy every Ben Nevis that comes out. For instance there was one that was a high price, but needed to be bought with two other whiskies that all totalled $1K CAD, so I couldn’t get it.
Then there’s Ben Nevis 20 1999 The Single Cask. It was available, however… Well, it’s a risk. We’re living in a time where everyone needs to mitigate risk, otherwise you get swallowed up by the free market who lets you die in the street while posting to wallstreetbets about how your wife left you and even your dog doesn’t really consider you a friend.
So what risk? It’s after 1996, after all, so since Ben Nevis amped up their quality by that point. It has an age statement, is cask strength, states the size of the barrel, and is independently bottled. Where’s the issue?
For one, I’ve never had anything from “The Single Cask”. Maybe I’ve had something from the same company. However as Cadenhead’s taught us (and many others), different lines have different levels of quality. See also: Univer makes Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s.
Second, it’s still priced like a post-1996 Ben Nevis. Good years are typically that: One or two great years. I don’t know if it will continue until 1999. Or even 1998, like Global Warming “all time highs”.
And finally, the price of Ben Nevis is high.
That all said, my buddy grabbed it, vouched for it, and poured it. Let’s see how it does, shall we?
Price: € 195
Vintage: May 13, 1999
Bottled: February 26, 2020
Cask type: Hogshead
Cask number 170
Number of bottles: 274
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Mango, long pepper, floral, light red fruit
I nosed this, and immediately got mango and a black pepper note that also had fruitiness. My buddy says “like pipalli”, and I stared at him. He went and grabbed a spice jar of fresh long pepper, and while I’ve read about the spice, I had yet to pick it up myself, and thus I finally entered the human race by nosing it. Side by side? Yeah, long pepper nails it. Nails it so much, it’s hard to pick anything up beyond the mango and long pepper.
Which when you think about it isn’t the worst thing: Cacio e pepe uses very few ingredients, toasting good black pepper to bring out more flavours and a quick search on google will show you the love of few ingredient dishes.
On the other hand, I can see why someone would nose this and be disappointed: There’s two dominant flavours that take over. But let’s see if the rest gives us more.
Taste: Mango, caramel, effervescent, mushroom, black pepper
More mango, more black pepper. However the taste has the chance to have more acidity, additional sugar notes, and some earthy notes beyond the heat. It actually took water to bring out the pepper.
Is this as vastly different as other older post 1996 Ben Nevisan? No, it’s going on the same path, but it is less complex. So much so that someone who never had multiple of the Unicorns and doesn’t have a heart harded would say it’s simple? Not at all. There’s no rough elements.
Finish: Wheat, orange zest, caramel, tart orange juice
Interesting finish. Lot more orange, which you know I hate, but it’s sweeter, so I’m in because of my wonderful and in-no-way-a-problem genes demanding more sugar.
Conclusion: While not as complex as some of the nice Ben Nevis that were released after 1996, still a very nice and interesting whisky.
Separate this from Ben Nevis 1996, which sadly has become what you need to do with almost all of the Ben Nevis I’ve picked up lately: Is it as complex as it should be, given the tater raised price? No. Is it still a good whisky that is worth it for being unique and tasty? Yes.
It’s mostly fruit and pepper. If you’re a fan of Baco Noir, you already know that’s a tasty combination.
We are going to have to wait until Ben Nevis meets the quality/price balance again. I’m assuming we may never, given the price silliness that goes on with whisky, but I’ll be waiting patiently.
Scotch review #1501, Highland review #245, Whisky Network review #2207