I showed up to the year-end tasting with Ben Nevis.
No, no, that undersells it: I showed up to the year end tasting with Ben Nevis 27 1990 Le Gus’t Selection XV. That has more gravitas. But we can still get better.
I showed up to the year-end tasting with a Ben Nevis before it changed it up to “all great” Ben Nevis in 1996. This is back in the “roulette table of quality” Ben Nevis years.
No, that doesn’t help, it’s the opposite of what I want to say.
I showed up to the year-end tasting with a cask strength Ben Nevis that was aged for 12 years in an ex-Sherry cask and then 15 years in a Port Pipe.
Now I’ve got your attention. I was able to get this bottle by requesting it delivered to someone in Germany and then brought back, as he wasn’t bringing back any other alcohol back and could do so. That was great.
Why did I do that much for a French independent bottling of Ben Nevis? Do I like Ben Nevis that much? No shit, but why this one? I haven’t seen any whisky that had the equivalent of two maturations.
You don’t see that. It’s like British Bulldogs: We know they exist, you don’t see them often, it’s exciting to see one in real life, and you won’t see one again. I can’t confirm or deny if making a Ben Nevis like this requires intervention at the same level of birthing bulldogs (it requires a cesarion), but for this stretched example, let’s take it as unique.
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Vintage: November 9, 1990
Bottled: June 10, 2018
Cask type: 12 years in Sherry / 15 years in Port Pipe
Cask number: 5
Number of bottles: 736
Colour: 5YR 4/8
Nose: Sulphur, black cocoa, lemongrass, maple doughnut, caramel
Prior to this whisky, we were enjoying subtle, light, floral/fruity whiskies. The types of whiskies that start off a tasting. The sheer angry, beautiful primal scream of this nose signals that period is over for the tasting.
Strong, pungent, grassy, earthy, very sweet/yeasty, and a strong caramel note. All covered in a strong sulphuric note that some will find off putting. There’s no way around that: If you are not a fan of that smell, it’s building into the nose DNA.
Taste: Plum jam, cinnamon, cherry, adobo, anise, red licorice
Strong, strong notes of the casks, but somehow still some grassy and anise notes from the Nevis. Nothing is subtle here. It’s a tuba playing a love song, potentially after plugging the instrument into an amp and learning all of their musical styles by Dio or Megadeath.
If whisky were condiments, this would be a high Scoville hot sauce that you enjoy the flavour on.
Finish: Sulphur, honey mandarin, juniper, raspberry
Interesting floral, botanical finish, with just a bit of the cask left in the form of tartness and hellfire. Pure Hellfire.
Conclusion: This is a bulldog: It’s ugly, it’s typically angry, and I love it for no reason. It will walk into a room, make noises that I would associate with heavyset villains from a movie in the 90s or a demon from a movie in the 2000s, drool, sit in an awkward and lewd fashion, and barely look at me when I talk to it, and I’m still enraptured.
Do you drink subtle whiskies and not enjoy them? This is for you. It’s Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys. You may be put off. Nothing about it is simple. Water only makes the volume go up to 12, somehow. It’s if Spinal Tap was not a mockumentary. You get fruit, spice, heat, sulphur, and earth, all to a high complexity. I wish I got more out of the finish, but I am certainly happy I tried this.
Scotch review #1538, Highland review #257, Whisky Network review #2258