Origin: Highlands (Scozia)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing cask: Ex-Sherry Butt (7 years), two ex-Bourbon Hogsheads (16 years)
Added coloring: No
Owner: Chorlton Whisky
Average price: € 130,00
Official website: chorltonwhisky.co.uk
It’s with some reverential awe that I approach this champion. Not so much because of its age, although 23 years is a long time, or the price, which isn’t high at all, but because of the very low number of bottles produced by the Manchester bottler: only 439!
In fact, the low number should not surprise anyone: in recent years, David Bennett has become known as one of the most interesting independent bottlers, making small batches from selections of spirits and very special casks.
This time we have a 23 year old single malt made in 1996 by Ben Nevis, a historic distillery in the Highlands which since 1989 has been owned by the Japanese Nikka. According to David, he chose this distillate because it perfectly represents the distillation style typical of those years. Moreover, this distillate curiously spent its first seven years in a Sherry Butt (as the English call the classic 500-litre tonneau for this wine), and then spent the remaining sixteen years divided between two ex-Bourbon Hogsheads that David miraculously managed to bring together for his bottling.
The colour is a splendid light gold, natural and transparent.
On the nose, there is an immediate hint of sultanas, but the winey tones are perfectly blurred by the work of time, which develops further notes of beeswax, custard, candied citrus fruits, until reaching fascinating mineral levels, with a hint of smoke and liquorice.
These latter notes are surprisingly found in the mouth, soaring over a creamy background of salted butter, a waxy sensation of raw honey, and a variegated pepperiness – of spices but also of candied ginger.
In the finish the almost smoky, savoury and intense liquorice note returns, fading into a full but clean cocoa butter finish.
A whisky that is nothing short of incredible for its overall balance and unique combination of sweet, smooth and caressing notes, combined with the mineral and savoury intensity of a truly long and mouth-watering persistence. All this at a price that can only give lessons to the more emblazoned, and exorbitant, competitors, and which doesn’t even need to embellish the bottle in pretentious cosmetic tricks. On the contrary, as usual, David has created a truly evocative label: an isolated castle exposed to an ominous rain of fire from the sky. Inspired by medieval pictorial aesthetics, David’s labels are little gems that make up the map of a fantasy world of castles, warriors and monsters that personally reminds me a lot of the style of Alan Lee’s Lord of the Rings illustrations.