How is it possible that there’s so much buzz for one of the least promoted distilleries in Scotland? Just taste the Ben Nevis 2012 8 Years from Roger’s Whisky Company and you’ll know why. Ben Nevis is this old, underappreciated distillery (by its owners at least) in Fort William at the foot of the namesake mountain. Much of their whisky gets shipped to Japan, never to be heard from again. But damn if it isn’t just exquisite whisky whenever it gets saved from blends.
By now there’s a good chance you may have heard of founder Roger Tan. His whiskies (I think all of them) have featured on my blog and those of others. His first Caol Ila was a standout, as was this Ben Nevis. Then there was a young secret Speyside that was a daring pick, but ultimately rewarding.
One thing is for sure, Roger is not afraid to bottle young whisky. Then again, he probably doesn’t have much choice either. As an upstart independent bottler you don’t just need the right contacts, but massive amounts of seed money to buy mature casks. Good luck finding a cask of whisky distilled late in the previous century for a fair price. Even casks from the 2000s are often way too expensive.
So, it’s about finding gems in an overheated market. Picking out the good stuff and doing it quick, because otherwise someone else might steal away a cask right from in front of you. And Roger has been able to do as much so far, relying on his instincts, or smartly re-racking that Caol Ila of his, or just slightly reducing a whisky to his preferred drinking strength, which can make a big difference and is what he did with this Ben Nevis 2012 8 Years.
If you’re bottling young whisky, you also better find a distillery capable of producing absolute top notch spirit. And Ben Nevis has proven itself in that realm. Admittedly, I still believe their flavour profile is an acquired taste; one that I don’t always fully appreciate. But Ben Nevis is always impeccably made, sometimes rustic, often very compelling.
The previous Ben Nevis by Roger’s Whisky Company was heavily peated and sherry matured. His latest release from Ben Nevis is the exact opposite – unpeated and from a bourbon cask. The Ben Nevis 2012 8 Years from Roger’s Whisky Company is about as naked a whisky as you’ll find.
Ben Nevis 2012 8 Years (54%, Roger’s Whisky Company, C#2086)
Nose: Typical sour Ben Nevis notes with touches of copper, but also powdered sugar, vegetal elements, yeast, barley husks and sheep’s wool. Then there are some preserved lemons, lychees and just a whiff of chalk. Extremely pure.
Taste: Oily mouthfeel with touches of sweet porridge, a waxy hint and more of those barley husks, but also already some soft fruits like lemon peel and apricots. Finally some spicy notes, think nutmeg and cloves.
Finish: Underripe banana peel, burlap and some lemon. Medium in length.
Sample and photos provided by Roger’s Whisky Company