Usually around this time of year, I spend a few days in Rotterdam enjoying the Whiskybase Gathering. Since Whiskybase decided to skip the festival for 2023, today’s post is sort of a throwback to last year’s edition. This Ben Nevis 1996 26 Years was launched at the Whiskybase Gathering in 2022 and celebrates the platform’s 15th Anniversary.
By now, most of you will know about the reputation of Ben Nevis from the year 1996. Mid to late 1990s Ben Nevis in general, and from the vintage 1996 in particular, has taken the whisky world by storm over the last five years or so. Me included.
There once was a time when Ben Nevis and I didn’t really get along. The funky, dirty nature of this distillery’s spirit just didn’t sit well with me. And then slowly that started to turn around, to the point that I recognize that some of the best contemporary whisky is being made at Ben Nevis. Even the younger stuff is already so delicious.
This 26-year-old Ben Nevis for Whiskybase has matured in a butt. The Whiskybase entry isn’t entire clear on the specifics, but presumably a sherry butt.
Ben Nevis 1996 26 Years (51.2%, Whiskybase ’15th Anniversary, C#4)
Nose: Hints of almond paste, metal and polished brass alongside bright tropical fruits (dragonfruit, peach, apricot) and an undeniable sherry influence. Even some damp oak, burlap and soy. Actually, one of the more sherried examples from this vintage that I’ve tried. Also brioche, tobacco, butterscotch, strawberry and honey. Taste: It’s a combination of oak spices, classic sherry cask flavours and that trademark tropical fruitiness that’s become so associated with Ben Nevis from this vintage. Hints of cloves, alongside fennel and burnt toast, but also a pinch of pepper. Then some tobacco and red fruits alongside vibrant notes of grapefruit and mango. Just terribly delicious. Finish: Long. More of the same. It’s all good.
It's not the most chiseled and crisp example of the style, but this Ben Nevis 1996 for Whiskybase's 15th Anniversary works charmingly well. The sherry butt has been active, but the spirit can stand up to it.