Ben Nevis 23 1996 The Whisky Trail

Thanks to /u/xile_  for this dram.

What was the occasion: End of year tasting, leg broken, not keeping me from whisky, I’m a champ and a fool because holy damn I’m lucky moving around a bunch didn’t injure me more.

What whisky did we review? Ben Nevis 23 1996 The Whisky Trail, a Ben Nevis from the legendary Ben Nevis year (1996), bottled by The Elixir Distillers, and the first Elixir Distillers independently bottled of this tasting so far. Because we can’t count the Tormore because it was distilled before they bought it.

What’s the distillery? Ben Nevis is an interesting distillery, and rather than rattle off the information you’ve read before about the name or how it’s owned by Nikka or that it has some peated offerings now that may show up in Nikka blended products, I’m going to share the most important information.

The main thing you, someone who takes the time to read whisky reviews online and not from a cat-eyed maniac, need to understand is that Ben Nevis went from a distillery that had a 50/50 success rate to a high success rate is that it happened in the year 1996. Not a year before.

That’s the key. Yes, it tastes great and these have a flavour profile of tropical fruit and black pepper and all the different aspects in between. Great. You’re paying a premium for Ben Nevis because the price has quintupled on them, and you should be knowledgeable enough to not buy pre-1996 for that premium price.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

What’s my bias? I fucking love Ben Nevis. It’s probably one of the highest reviewed Scotch distilleries in my review history. Wait, let me look…

Okay, it’s third in the open distilleries, behind Laphroaig and Springbank. That’s some big contenders. Especially, as I said before, because I was reviewing Ben Nevisans (plural form using what tiny amount of Gaelic I know) before the golden year. So there’s some duds in there.

As for the Whisky Trail, if you haven’t caught on yet, I’m a nerd. The bottle looks like a Nintendo game. I still have the NES setup in my living room.

So I’m biased as fuck here. Let’s see if this meets my hype, shall we?

Price: ‎€455.00

Region: Highland

Vintage: November 1, 1996

Bottled: June 9, 2020

Cask type: Hogshead

Cask number 1684

Abv: 54.3%

Colour: 5Y 9/6

Nose: Chocolate lime, apricot, blueberry, pear/cloves

Can I take a moment to tell Terry’s, of the Terry’s Orange folks, that they need to bring back other flavours? Because chocolate lime is amazing and we need it more often. I rag on Florida non-stop as a failed state that should be cut off and left to drift (that’s how geology works) and even they realise how amazing lime mixes with chocolate when they dip a key lime pie in chocolate.

Tropical fruit, floral, spice, and chocolate. I’m in. This nose is really interesting. Doesn’t get too complex beyond that though. Gotta reign it in. Sure, chocolate is an amalgamation of multiple flavours that differs due to the ingredients used and could be argued to be complex on its own and even some of the fruit could be attributed to it, but…. I mean it’s not enough to carry the complexity compared to other Ben Nevisan I’ve had in the past.

Taste: Orange, hard candy, black licorice, banana

Floral, spice, sweet, and less fruit. Water really helps out here, as the taste is pure spice and flowers until you give it a bunch of time and water. I’ve said this before, but balance comes from having that main flavour with side flavours backing it up.

This isn’t a DnD group here people: You need someone to be the main character and hog the limelight a bit.

Otherwise I love floral and anise, not to mention being someone who always has cardamom on hand for baking and cooking, and I’m in flavour town.

Finish: Daisy, grassy, cloves, banana, raspberry coulis

Floral, more fruit, grassier and less strong “purple” flavours (I lack the ability to elaborate how my brain associates violets, purple sugar filling and other flavours together beyond “purple”), with a nice acidity at the end.

Conclusion: Fruity, spice heavy, and floral. So it’s a 1996 Ben Nevis. They are expensive and legendary for a reason. No shit. Is it as good as others? No, it’s sadly just great, which is funny at this point because it “only” hits that amazing flavour profile. The distillery is starting to be hurt by its own success.

If you bought this, would you be annoyed? No, not at all. It’s very tasty. It’s not like other girls, it likes video games (this is sarcasm). The taste has problems, that’s all. Finding Ben Nevis that was distilled in 1996 is getting harder. It’s getting more expensive. And there’s less and less of a chance you’ve had enough of a chance to try previous ones and determine if you like them.

So, assuming you aren’t super rich, should you buy 1996 Ben Nevis you find? They are good. But if you’ve never had them or never had this profile before, maybe wait to have a dram before buying. I’ll keep buying them, but I know I like drinking flowers and enjoying these, so I’ve already done the above.


Scotch review #1617, Ben Nevis review #271, Whisky Network review #2345

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