8 November 2018

07/11/2018 Two Ben Nevis

Should that be Ben Nevises?

Ben Nevis 21yo 1996/2018 (52.9%, Cadenhead Single Cask, 1 x Bourbon Hogshead, 210b): I remember liking this a lot, when it came out in May, then having a top-up to confirm and being less convinced. What luck to have an opportunity for another go. Nose: a whiff of fruit, not in a particularly good shape -- decaying apples, overripe pears, strawberries past their prime. There is also a more "traditional" Ben Nevis touch, with stagnant water and cured meat. The decaying apple is quite something! It makes me think of a cider fermentation vat. It also has dust and ground stones; quarry dust, in other words. The faintest touch of wood varnish, overripe peaches and old oilskin.  The back of the nose is softly peaty, too. At second sniff, the fruit is fresher, more in line with the mouth. Mouth: good balance, with the texture of acacia honey, a pinch of red chilli powder, plums, apricots and candied apples. The fruit is now very pleasant, surprisingly enough. The mouth is coating and sweet, really a mix of honey and fruit. It is as if it were a completely different dram, when compared to the nose! A lick of nail varnish, maybe, but the dominant is that sweetness. Boy! is this sweet. Finish: holy cow! This is a fruit bomb! Assertive kick of yellow plum, apricot and juicy peach, all coated in a wonderful fruit syrup, sweet and softly acidic. That is complemented by a minor note of cedar wood and ginger shavings. Phwoar! What a surprise! The nose made me question my initial impression again, and I was expecting the worst. But this is very, very nice. If only the nose were not almost off-putting, I would score it higher. I now regret not buying it a little. 8/10 (Thanks for the sample, SW)

Ben Nevis 27yo 1990/2018 (58.9%, Le Gus't Sélection XV, Port Pipe, C#5): I tried (and hated) this in Zürich, in June, a few days after it was bottled. Nice to try it in more relaxed circumstances. I do not usually comment on the colour, but this is between tawny and frankly pink. It reminds me of the Port-casked Glengoynes from the SMWS. Nose: there seems to be little of the Port influence, here; it is mostly earth and chocolate-coated cherries, which I am all in favour of! That is shortly joined by petrol and lamp oil, then a drinks cabinet from the 1970s -- it contains all sorts of old-school bottles, such as liqueurs and fortified wines, few spirits. A mix of squashed raspberry and crushed walnuts enters the dance, sprinkled with Port. There we go. Later on, the trademark Ben Nevis meat shows up too, taking it down a notch for me. Mouth: the texture is thinner than expected and it has the pinkness of the appearance (whatever that means). Again, it reminds me of the SMWS Glengoynes, with Corsodyl (a pink-looking, antibiotic mouthwash) and diluted fruit juice. Not too agreeable to me, this. It is also rather hot! Anaesthetising, just like Corsodyl is. The colour, the taste, the mouthfeel... All points to the mouthwash, which I am not a fan of. Finish: some nuts, some wine, loads and loads of corks. Old corks, new corks, damaged corks, dry corks, soaked corks, crumbling corks, and a fair amount of spices. I find this awfully cork-y, to the point it seems flawed. It leaves the mouth very dry and a bit bitter, which latter point is actually increased by the minute nuttiness, despite a few dark fruits. This one is really not my thing. I might try it with water another time. 4/10 (Thanks for the sample, Steph2A)

6 November 2018

05/11/2018 Banffire Night

Guy Fawkes, Parliament bombing, blowing stuff up, yippee-ki-yay, boom. Time flies.

Banff 24yo 1976/2001 (55.8%, C#2251, 284b, 01/665): this is one of the now-famous velveteenies. Nose: it starts off delicately, with warm cloth, line-drying linen and hay. Soon, spices arrive: pepper and mustard powder. The mustard becomes increasingly assertive, though never invading. It is joined by an earthy, root-y quality, dry and fragrant; Japanese mayonnaise, horseradish, mild wasabi. Smokier things come through: incense, dry fishing nets, dry crab shells, even. This is surprisingly peaty for a Banff, yet that is welcome, when it is this refined. Dry bung cloth, Lapsang Suchong, bonfires (good timing, eh?) and cigar boxes. Not much fruit to note -- perhaps remnants of barbecued grapefruit slices. The second sniff brings out wax and heated metal stamps (for the wax, see?) Mouth: gentle and balanced, tame, even, it has a little of the barbecued grapefruit, alongside incense ashes, iodine, salty cockles and dry hay bales. It feels confusingly tame, given the stated ABV. Charred cassiah bark is there, dried shellfish too, and a rather thick veil of smoke -- thick as in: omnipresent; it is refined, cigar smoke, still with that coastal touch, much like smoked seafood. Finish: meow: the finish is a continuity of the nose and mouth, with ashes, incense, cigar boxes, dry bung cloth, bonfires, smoked, gunpowdered black tea, smoked crab shells and cigar smoke, shortly joined by warm cigar leaves. The second sip helps grapefruit emerge, though, again, it is barbecued grapefruit. The tingle on the tongue stays long after swallowing, oscillating between that lovely-if-distant grapefruit, cigars and smoked crab shells. This is exquisite. 9/10

03/11/2018 Pre-Bonfire Night drams

SW invited me to share a mini of his favourite whisky of all time, which PP kindly offered him. Do I say yes?

Millburn 11yo 1982/1994 (59.7%, Cadenhead): the big bottle is in the Authentic Collection range, but this miniature does not mention it. SW often tells people this is his favourite whisky -- time to confront the beast! Nose: musty dunnage warehouse, with old dust, dry clay, left untouched for decades, ground nuts, rancio, and old staves, decomposing under tons and tons of aeons-old dust. Later, it reveals old ropes, ashes, still warm in the hearth grille. Oh! The ashes turn to embers, with also boiler rooms and old casks -- is this old school, or what? Mouth: ooft! that is hot. Hot wax, burnt cork, a grille on the fire, freshly-stamped seals... It has a little fruit too: dark grapes, plums, prunes, blackberries. The dominant is hot-cauldron action, however: white-hot cast iron, a rack and pinion above the fire, very hot water... In fact, that hot-water impression stays for good. It feels close to drinking hot water -- although, in this case, that is much more pleasant than it reads or sounds! In any case, this is not a whisky for beginners (he said pretentiously). It is  challenging dram alright. Finish: phwoar! Industrial-age action, with hot wax cylinders, hot boilers, flames, fire, hot engines, melted wax, then prunes, stewed rhubarb and boiled sweets. I absolutely adore this sort of long-extinguished profiles. 9/10 (Thanks SW and PP)

Of course, I could not show up empty-handed.

Millburn 25yo 1975/2001 (61.9%, OB Rare Malts Selection, b#2423): nose: this one is clearly affiliated, whilst also very different. It is much less dry, and it is woodier, with polished dashboards, dusty, leather-bound books on a teak shelf, very dark chocolate, aromatic herbs, thrown onto the hob -- and that is where the high strength finally makes itself obvious -- ooh! it is pretty hot, this. Stewed walnut flesh, stewed prunes, apricot compote... and scorched earth. What a combination! And it works! The longer it spends in the glass, the stronger it seems to become, causing zero problem: it remains well-balanced throughout. Mouth: spicy, though actually rather mellow -- this is the chicken goa of the whisky world, tonight. Yellow plums, peaches, cold apricot compote -- wait! the heat is rising! (The past is calling! -- for those Who know) The plums are now barbecued, the peaches are caramelised, and there is a lick of warm staves too. It has a distinct sweetness ("Turkish delights," says SW). Sugar exuding through staves, lichen, crystallised sugar. Finish: huge, ballsy, with hot, juicy, yellow fruit (baked peaches and warm apricot jam), a dash of smoke, warm wood, Turkish delights (SW was right), crystallised sugar on wooden staves, and candied orange rinds. This is simply amazing. It has never felt this sweet before and that is also wonderful: a whisky that changes every time one tries it. Why did I not buy a second bottle of this when I had a chance? 9/10

Two related-but-different profiles, both amazing drams.