Single Malts of Scotland’s Reserve Casks range generally presents affordable whiskies of above-average quality. My experience with this series is limited, but I’ve heard and read good things about many of the other releases. Today I’m about to triple my experience by tasting the Benrinnes 2009 12 Years and the Ben Nevis 2012 10 Years, part of Parcels No. 9 and No. 10 of the Reserve Casks series.
Either batch is a marriage of five casks, but there’s no mention on the label of cask types. After having tasted the Benrinnes, I can fairly confidently say that sherry casks were involved. If not fully, then I suspect this Benrinnes is at least partially sherry-matured. As far as the Ben Nevis goes? I would say the involvement of sherry casks is less likely there.
Benrinnes 2009 12 Years Reserve Casks (48%, Single Malts of Scotland, Parcel No. 9)
Nose: Somewhat meaty and a touch of copper, but also hints of polished leather, sandalwood and cloves. Finally blackberries, cherry syrup and a distinct note of red apple peel. Taste: Modern sherry influence and notes of walnuts, black pepper, and cloves. Also a touch of burnt toast, vanilla custard, almonds and Chambord (not as sweet though). Finish: Medium length. Lingering oak spices, mocha and a hint of chocolate. Finally a whisper of mint.
I wouldn’t call the oak influence subtle, yet the characterful spirit of Benrinnes holds up. And the drinking strength is just wonderful. More and more my preference seems to shift from cask strength to something that’s a little more gentle.
Ben Nevis 2012 10 Years Reserve Casks (48%, Single Malts of Scotland, Parcel No. 10)
Nose: Fairly clean, but there’s still some of that traditional Ben Nevis funk with a dirty edge. Minerals, copper, and chalk. It’s all here, as well as linseed oil, limoncello, and orchard fruits, as well as a touch of shoe polish and porridge. Truly delicious. Taste: Waxy. Oils, just a sliver of smoked barley husks, and hints of charred oak and black pepper. But there’s also a faint salinity, touches of pear and a bit of chalk. Finish: Medium. Touches of olive brine, white pepper and wax.
I can't really fault it. Excellent spirit, that's for sure. But it also can't quite compete with the official Ben Nevis 10 Years, which I recently tasted also and features more fruits.