First up come form the dew of Ben Nevis... or so they call it. Long John McDonald founded the distillery in 1825 at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, where the cool mountain air condenses into the two pools from which the distillery draws her water. Popular enough that by 1878 a second distiller had to be built next door which eventually was amalgamated back into the Ben Nevis of today. The most recent change of hands in 1989, was to the Japanese Nikka company, who still produces the malt to this day.
The bottle that I'm reviewing today comes form the Clydesdale independent bottler lineup under the Blackadder label. Aged 15 years in sherry cask (likely a refill), number 0350/2626 and bottled at a whopping 59.5% ABV without any chill filtration or colouring. I tried this bottle many moons ago and was astonished that something so high on the ABV scale could seem so approachable. This was my first foray into cask strength drams, and it was a more that pleasant experience, and cemented my love of independent drams that can actually display the character of the distillery.
- Colour: Bright straw gold. No colour added.
- Body: Thin to medium. Very tiny drops and thin legs, slow run back to the glass. No chill filtration happening here either!
- Nose: Bright and lively! Hay (cut and dried), and fruits., hints of flowers and very subtle malt. Rich pastry notes with apricot and peach schnapps. Pineapple upside down cake, hints of vanilla and varnish. Yellow plums, flint and dry cocoa in the bottom with hints of lemon and mint in the background.
- Palate: Surprising power here, but not in the way you'd think. That almost 60% ABV still comes across as soft and dignified like a 43-46% dram. The power comes with the wallop of flavour it brings with it! Spice and wood notes start up with a brine note playing second fiddle. The malt comes in strong next with more pineapple in tow. A warm fruit compote with some sort of... what I can only describe as yellow flowers. Roots and rich gobs of dried fruit (papaya), shortly follow this up with a wood smoke or cocoa dryness. The cocoa comes in a little more strongly as it transitions towards the finish with just a slight hint of struck match in the background.
- Finish: The heat shows up here from the ABV, but it still doesn't overwhelm the finish. Daisy... or maybe cooked daisies with more yellow plums (also cooked). Good dutch cocoa and more toasted oak here. Some astringent notes, specifically astringent peach, and a rather hot dryness. The dryness is very welcome as shortly afterwards your mouth begins watering; yearning for the next sip!
- Empty Glass: Wood smoke and cherry cough syrup. Coffee dregs and pineapple vodka (not sweet though). Wood spices and play-dough , citrus and some bitter almond in the bottom. Almost hints of grilled peach and fruit salts (is there such a thing as fruit salt? I'm thinking a salt that has a yellow fruit note...).