Wild Scotsman single cask: 1992 Ben Nevis 13 year, 46%, Cask #693
I discovered Wild Scotsman whisky via Twitter, where the Wild Scotsman himself, Jeffrey Topping, is an active member. Following the Twitter profile link to his site, I discovered that this is an American who travelled to Scotland to learn about whisky making, somehow got in tight with Master Distiller John McDougall, and then started his own whisky company. How’s THAT for an exciting way to live the American dream? He offers a couple of his own vatted malt expressions, a number of single casks from different distilleries, and U.S. distribution of some John McDougall single cask selections.
Intrigued, I looked through the available Wild Scotsman bottlings online at Sam’s Wine and Spirits store, located in Chicago. I found this single bourbon cask Ben Nevis 13 year, a distillery from which I’ve been wanting to try an expression. There was no information about this bottling on the Wild Scotsman web site, so I dropped Mr. Topping a note asking for information on it, and he sent me the following:
The Ben Nevis was my first single Cask bottling after the release of my first signature Vatted malt. At the time I was in an apprenticeship with the only Master Distiller and Blender in the World, John McDougall of Scotland. On one of our tours we traveled up to the Ben Nevis Distillery to meet with his first apprentice, Collin Ross, who is the distillery manager at Ben Nevis even today. It was a bit surreal to have a behind the scenes tour of Ben Nevis with two men whose combined career in whisky spans over 70 years. They can forget more in a day than is written in most books about Scotch whisky.
After the tour we had a wonderful lunch in the reception. Lamb Broth Stew, sandwiches, and some good conversations about some of the history both of these men have lived and continue to live. We continued to the board room and we sampled some of the casks we owned. The samples were pre-arranged as there is an extensive amount of paperwork to withdraw samples and other matters which are all policies of both the government and Nikka which owns Ben Nevis. It was quite interesting to have cask samples of an Ex-Sherry, Ex-Port-Pipe, and Ex-Bourbon, which are all components of the single malt brand. One could almost pick out the role each component plays in making the brand. I was blown away about how subtle and sweet the Ex-bourbon cask of Ben Nevis I owned had matured and knew at 13 years this cask would be ready for bottling.
I reduced the proof down to 46%,with no added color, no chill filtration. It is a great dram for the heat.
Straight out of the bottle, I notice a bit of a pungent smell, reminding me of furniture polish, and possibly something slightly sour. While it’s a bit sharp, I don’t find it particularly offensive. Others might have a different reaction. Of note, letting a glass of this Ben Nevis sit for 15-20 minutes (with a watch glass on it) seems to help this expression more than I’ve noticed with other whiskies I’ve tried. My notes are based on drinking it after it sat for 20 minutes in the glass.
On the nose, I get some alcohol, but not a lot. I don’t feel particularly inclined to water it down any further. The primary scents are lemon drops and yogurt, along with some hay or cut grass in the background. One of the three times I tried it, those traits combined to make me think of iced tea with lemons in it. Overall, it’s a “light” nose, even with that sharp initial attack.
On the palate, this Ben Nevis has a nice body to it. It’s reasonably think and oily. Most impressive, though, is the reaction on the tongue. I’ve got sweet and salty going, with a little sourness, and finally a slight dark chocolate bitterness. Lots of tingling going on all over the tongue! There’s a drying on the tongue that provides some additional tingling on the sides.
The finish doesn’t bring back much of the nose at all, which I found a little bit unexpected. However, there does seem to be a bit of a white pepper sensation, and a hint of malt. Perhaps a slightly stale malt. The pepper sticks around for a while, as does the drying sensation on the tongue.
The bottom line is that I find this Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis quite enjoyable. Nothing earth-shattering, but a nice light summer dram, with a little extra bite on the tongue compared to something like Bunnahabhain 12. In fact, I’d say my overall enjoyment is similar to the Bunna 12, so I would rate this the same at 83/100 points. One point down for having to wait a bit for the initial furniture polish attack to ease up, but a point added back for the extra zip in the mouth. As for deciding between the Ben Nevis and the Bunna, it will come down to whether I’m in the mood for lemon drops or apples and cinnamon.
Reading through the notes about Ben Nevis on Malt Madness (Johannes doesn’t seem to care much for the expressions distilled in the 1990s), I’m thinking Jeffrey Topping did a nice job with this Ben Nevis release. At $58, I think it’s a fair value for a non chill-filtered single cask. I’ll certainly be keeping Wild Scotsman on my radar, and will be trying more of their expressions. I’m curious about the vatted malts, but also quite intrigued by the John MacDougall Bladnoch single casks. In time, hopefully I’ll be able to report back on both.
I was just about to write that I couldn’t find any other opinions on this rare single cask release. Then I found a review on Malt Advocate. I had looked in the review section under Wild Scotsman. It’s actually under Ben Nevis:
- Malt Advocate – John Hansell was very impressed with this release, awarding it 87 points! I’m not ready to go that high yet, but maybe after I improve my ability to distinguish subtleties in a light bourbon-casked malt I’ll see things differently. John’s obviously got a lot more experience than I do.
Here’s my “quick take” graphic for Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis 13. For more info about this format, and my rating system, see this post.