Trivia question: What is the highest mountain in the British Isles? Hint: There is a distillery with the same name. The answer, as you have probably guessed, is Ben Nevis, located in the Western Highlands of Scotland. The mountain itself is a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and adventurers. The Ben Nevis Distillery sits at the base of the mountain, on the western coast (and although it sits at the base of a mountain, Ben Nevis is actually considered a coastal distillery).
Most (or at least many) distilleries in Scotland are grouped together in popular whisky-producing regions—Speyside and Islay in particular. Even the more remote distilleries often have at least one whisky neighbor. But Ben Nevis sits all alone in its picturesque locale—its nearest neighbor (Oban) is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) away. (It did once have a close neighbor—Glenlochy. But that distillery closed in 1983.)
I’ve had an independent bottling of Ben Nevis before, but this is my first time trying an official bottling. It’s not the most common single malt out there, but it is available if you do some searching. Let’s see how it tastes.
Ben Nevis 10 Years Old
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Nose: Roasted nuts. Peanuts. Mixed nuts. Lots of nuts. A good amount of sherry influence, but a rather musty type of sherry. Oak… a surprising amount of oak for a 10 year. Dark fruits. Raisins. Toffee. Banana and hints of other tropical fruits. Bittersweet chocolate.
Palate: Full and rich, sherry influenced. Amaretto. Nuts. Toffee. Vanilla cookies. Orange. Tropical fruit mix. Some berries. Chocolate. Slight hint of smoke. Musty. Heavy. Invigorating. Big bodied and firm. Not super complex, but nice.
Finish: Peanut brittle. Orange marmalade. Toasted marshmallow. Banana pudding. A touch of cherry cough syrup. Medium to long in length. Quite lovely.
Overall: Restorative, invigorating, and nutty.
I’m a big fan of the old Sherlock Holmes TV series from the 1980s (produced by Granada, starring Jeremy Brett). Throughout the series, anytime Dr. Watson has to treat a medical emergency, his immediate go-to remedy is to give the patient a sip or two of whisky. This Ben Nevis 10 year old is exactly the type of whisky I imagine the good doctor pouring down his patients’ throats. Although it’s not particularly medicinal in taste (aside from the hint of medicine in the finish), it has a type of restorative quality that perks you up and gets you going again. If I wanted a sip of whisky after taking a long walk on a sunny day, this is the whisky I would pick. If I was going hiking or backpacking, this is the whisky I would bring along to sip beside a trail in the woods or at the top of a mountain. I suppose it’s appropriate that a distillery located at the foot of the highest mountain in Scotland would make such as whisky.
In my review of Aberlour 12 NCF, I mentioned that the Aberlour has what I consider to be a “fresh” sherry cask influence, meaning the casks used are probably younger and the whisky is more vibrant. This Ben Nevis does not have that type of fresh sherry quality—it’s more of a musty, old, used sherry cask influence (although I’d guess it does include at least a little fresher, first-fill oak). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different. Actually this shows that there’s more than one way to do sherry influence well.
Although this is not a terribly complex whisky, it is highly enjoyable as an everyday sipper. It’s also one of those bottles that has really improved after being open for a few weeks. I was not all that enthusiastic about this whisky when I first opened the bottle, but the closer I get to the end of the bottle, the better the whisky has been. I’m really enjoying it.
Buy again? Yes, if the price is right. I’ve found a rather large variance on price for this one near me—one store sells it for about $50, another for about $85. I’d pay $50 for this all day long. But $85? No thanks. By the way, this type of issue is why I don’t generally mention the price of whisky in my reviews anymore—not only do whisky prices vary greatly from country to country and coast to coast, but they can also greatly vary from store to store within the same city.
Questions about my scoring system? Refer to the Review Method & Scoring Scale page.