Monday, February 1, 2016

Whisky Review: Exclusive Casks Ben Nevis 14 Year/1998

Exclusive Casks is a line of single cask whiskies bottled by the Creative Whisky Company bottled for Total Wine in the United States. This is alongside the CWC's Exclusive Malts line that are found at a broader range of stores.

This was part of a batch of whiskies that hit the shelves with very little fanfare. Michael Kravitz has reviewed it twice and passed a sample along to me.

The whisky was distilled at Ben Nevis on December 1st 1998, aged in an indeterminate cask (probably a hogshead), then bottled after at least 14 years at 53.2% without coloring or chill filtration in a run of 258 bottles. There are a lot of questions about provenance because the bottle leaves out some critical information.

Exclusive Casks Ben Nevis 14 Year/1998

Nose: fresh Douglas fir sawdust, creamy fresh malt, light herbal peat, rosemary, vague sherry character, orange peel, peaches/apricots, cookie/bread dough, vanilla, American oak. After adding a few drops of water, the malt is significantly amplified but also seems younger, with the herbal notes gaining some pine,

Taste: thick malt and wood sweetness up front, quickly joined by oak tannins that build towards the back, strong orange and peach notes in the middle, herbal peat slides into the background, bitter almond notes with a bump of orange oil and something industrial at the back. After dilution, the oak and fruit notes come together to make it taste almost sherried, while the back becomes more polished oak with strong floral overtones

Finish: almond, peach, oak, vague herbal peat, root vegetables/earthy

Smells have some of the strongest memory associations and this takes me straight back to helping my father cut 2x4s on a table saw in the garage. It's exactly the same kind of fresh wood smell, but unlike other whiskies I've tried with that character it isn't because the spirit was aged in small casks and doesn't seem out of place. Overall there's a great balance between the brighter flavors of peach and orange with the danker herbal and peat character.

I would love to get a full bottle of this whisky, but as it's only available in Washington which has absurd liquor taxes that would push the price above $100, I'm going to have to pass. But I will be keeping my eye out for other bottles from Ben Nevis of a similar vintage hoping that they hit the same kinds of notes.

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