Day five. Where are we at? Back in Scotland (kind of). Some of you may be breathing a sigh of relief after day four’s American Whiskey. Hopefully some of you enjoyed our Bourbon interlude though. Flavour can be found in all types of whisky, even if they insist on adding an extra letter to the word. We are getting serious in day five with a Single Malt Scotch from a single cask.
Not just any single cask, either. This one was selected by Curt, Andrew and myself after a grueling sampling session that if memory serves (and it might not) included more than a dozen samples, most of which were very good or better than very good. In that assortment of samples, two single casks were picked. One is already sold out. In fact, it sold out after only eight days in the store. This is the other one – luckily we still have this guy around. This is our KWM Cask of Ben Nevis 22 year old from Elixir Distiller’s Single Malts of Scotland Label.
About Ben Nevis: Did you know that this Scottish distillery might be partially responsible for some of your favourite Japanese Whiskies?
There is are a two reasons for this:
- Ben Nevis Distillery is owned by Nikka – the Japanese company that also owns Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries within Japan. Nikka is one of the two largest whisky companies in Japan – the other one being Suntory or Beam Suntory.
- While most whisky producing countries including – Scotland, Ireland, United States, and Canada – have some sort of legislation or regulations defining what can be called “whisky”, Japan does not. There seem to be some industry agreed upon terms and definitions, but nothing legally binding. What this means is that a lot of what is bottled as “Japanese Whisky” is actually whisky that is imported from other countries (such as Canada and Scotland) and then bottled in Japan, typically under the name “Blended Japanese Whisky” Or “Japanese Pure Malt Whisky”. While there may be Japanese Whisky in that bottle – there may be whisky that was distilled in another nation entirely.
What does this all mean? Well, for one thing, we have seen a lot of previously unknown Japanese Whisky bottles pop up in our market and around the world. This likely has to do with the demand for Japanese Whisky in general. Many of these bottlings are or might be good, if not great. But that does not mean that they contain 100% Made in Japan Whisky. Back to Nikka owning Ben Nevis. Ever had the The Nikka 12 year old Blend or the Super Nikka? It is possible that there was some Ben Nevis in there. Even the highly regarded Nikka From the Barrel and Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt could potentially have some Ben Nevis in the mix. Whether either them actually do or not? Who knows.
Ben Nevis Distillery lays at the foot of and is named after Ben Nevis – which is the highest mountain in the British Isles – rising to 1325 metres at its peak. The Highland Distillery was originally founded in 1825, and has been owned by Nikka since 1989.
Independent bottling label Single Malts of Scotland is owned by Eilixir Distillers, which itself is owned by Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh. The brothers also own The Whisky Exchange, a popular and very well-respected group of UK-based whisky shops. Elixir Distillers itself is an independent bottling arm that also bottles under the Elements of Islay and Port Askaig Labels. The company – and the brothers – have hopes and plans of eventually opening up their own distillery on Islay.
Single Malts of Scotland bottles have not been available in Alberta for very long, but we are very fortunate to have selected two different single casks and had them bottled for KWM already, and we hopefully will have a few more coming in the future…
For now, lets dive into this Japanese Gem from the Scottish Highlands: our Single Malts of Scotland Ben Nevis KWM Cask:
SMOS Ben Nevis 1996 KWM Cask – 22 Years Old from an ex-Sherry Butt – 53.6% ABV – 440 (700mL) bottles total
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Rich, concentrated, but austere. This noses like an old school style sherry-cask whisky – not the sherry seasoned fruit bombs that you are more likely to find today. Dates, stewed plums, prunes, raisins blueberries – the fruit is there. So are tangy notes of reduced balsamic vinegar, and cherry cider along with fruity tobacco, polished leather, soft cedar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Palate: Rich, sweet and tangy with a touch of spice on the tongue. Figs, prunes, blueberry jam, fruit leather, a touch of black liquorice, reduced balsamic again, dark chocolate, espresso beans, and pecan pie.
Finish: Slightly drying but so concentrated and umami-like at the same time. The sweet notes are there, but not decedent due to the tangy notes that keep it in check.
Comment: I have not been a sherry fan as of late, preferring refill hogsheads and and ex-Bourbon casks to age the whisky I taste – but I love this cask. It gives so much but still stays tightly wound in style. This isn’t your flabby, over the top sherry. This is big, rich sherry in a refined style.
Day five brought us our oldest whisky in the 2019 Calendar thus far. What will Day 6 bring? Only time will tell…
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