I recently (August ’18) spent 3 weeks travelling around Scotland, camping, walking and visiting distilleries. As part of the trip we climbed Ben Nevis, which was incredible in itself, not least because we got engaged at the top whilst sheltering next to the abandoned observatory in the middle of a hailstorm!
Seeing as we were camping at the foot of the mountain we booked onto a tour of Ben Nevis distillery, despite never having tried any before. Anyone who has taken their tour will no doubt remember the video at the start featuring the one and only Hector McDram! Perhaps some would rather forget that…
In preparation for the visit I purchased a bottle of Ben Nevis 10yo and was extremely pleasantly surprised by it. It was full flavoured, meaty and had a springbank-style funk to it which I really enjoyed. At the time it was £36 a bottle online and appeared to be in abundance, therefore I finished the bottle in pretty short order, thoroughly enjoyed every last drop and promptly added it to the list of bottles to pick up in Scotland without a second thought.
Unfortunately for me stocks of the 10 year old were a lot thinner on the ground than I assumed and I wasn’t even able to purchase a bottle at the distillery, much less anywhere else. Things are picking up a bit now though with a few online retailers now having it back in stock, albeit at a higher price than before which suggests
the word is out about how good it is. Fortunately, on the other hand, Ben Nevis also produce a 12 year old blend known as Nevis Dew. It’s the same dram that was previously sold as The Dew Of Ben Nevis, however because it contains whisky that is distilled elsewhere Scotch Whisky Association rules say that the bottle cannot bear the name of the Ben Nevis distillery.
During our post-tour tasting, the guide said that he views Nevis Dew 12 year old as the best expression of Ben Nevis whisky that the distillery produce. I disagree, as the ten year old is pretty damn good and in all honesty the 12 year old doesn’t beat it. Having said that, it is a hugely enjoyable whisky that shows the potential of what a blend can offer when it is created carefully and sympathetically to the strengths of the included malt.
Throughout the experience that is this whisky it is obvious that there is a very generous portion of 12 year old Ben Nevis malt in there, with the grain whisky included as a supporting act to fill things out whilst emphasising the defining features of the malt. Exactly as a good blend should be, then.
Straight away the nose delivers that delicious funky sourness that appears to be the still signature of the distillery. The metallic notes of the grain whisky (which is “carefully sourced from local grain distilleries down the road” according to our tour guide) are
present, but fit nicely in the overall profile and don’t even come close to being overwhelming. The Ben Nevis website states that some people think of this as a single malt whisky, which might be slightly overstating things but I get where they’re coming from. It’s a very clean nose, with a dry, sour quality and prepares you for what the palate has to offer.
Taste-wise, we get more of the sour funk, with a very full and meaty flavour that is definitely reminiscent of the ten year old. There’s a citrus side to things too, with lemons and also apples and pears present. I also get a delicious bitterness to it which I’m pretty sure is from the cask char; it bears a resemblance to the bonfire notes in some peaty whiskies.
Overall this comes across as a well made, tastefully blended whisky that does the generous proportion of quality malt content the justice it deserves, and it’s currently available for just over £26 at The Green Welly Stop which is a steal. Compared to Johnnie Walker Black at the same age, this is a pretty big leap ahead in terms of flavour. I encourage you to take a risk next time you’re after something “budget”, and if you already have then you probably already know why!