Ben Nevis 10 Years Cask Strength (Batch No. 1)
The Ben Nevis 10 Years is one of the best entry-level single malts in the world. Yet, it is still somewhat of a hidden gem, in large part because there isn’t a whole lot of it available. That’s because Ben Nevis is owned by Nikka, who rather ship this distillery’s production in bulk to Japan.
Because there barely are any rules for Japanese whisky, you can simply import whisky from anywhere in the world to Japan, and bottle it is Japanese whisky. It reeks of a scam, but it actually is allowed. And can you really fault Nikka and other Japanese companies that do this? Okay, yes, from an ethical standpoint you can, but economically it makes sense.
Make up a Japanese brand, design a label with lots of Japanese characters, slap it on a bottle of Ben Nevis and you can up the asking price significantly. It’s shameless, but it could make you rich. So I guess the question is: Do you care more about your reputation or your bank account? If the answer is the latter, maybe look into setting up a company in Japan.
With so many Ben Nevis whisky disappearing into Japanese blends, it was rather a surprise when the distillery announced a albeit limited, but new release a while back. Just like it’s flagship expression, this is also 10 years old, but bottled at a whopping 62.4%. More interestingly, only first-fill bourbon, sherry and wine casks were used for maturation.
Ben Nevis 10 Years Cask Strength (62.4%, OB, Batch No. 1)
Nose: A typical, dirty Ben Nevis with notes of copper coins. However, I suspect the gunpowder is the result of the wine casks. Hints of prunes and dates too, as well as a touch of red grape juice and ginger.
Taste: The wine influence is very much in your face. Some redcurrant jelly, as well as blackberries. A bit sickly, some gunpowder too, but also notes of ginger and pepper.
Finish: A whiff of espresso and chocolate, but the red wine is undeniable.
A far cry from what makes Ben Nevis great. Remind me to avoid wine matured Ben Nevis in the future, because that dirty distillery profile does not need any sulphured wine cask to interfere.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.