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The Ben Nevis 10 Year Old looks dated in the bottle; the design is the epitome of kitsch, with the torn-paper label and faded watercolour painting on the bottle. I, however, found this endearing.
It is a mid-golden-brown in colour with a low-mid viscosity in appearance with a lack of 'legs' forming in the glass.
I have had a bottle of this around for about two years, but I have never been able to place a number of aromas on the nose. Today I decided to persevere, so here are my thoughts.
The nose is somewhat muted to begin with; musty with shredded paper, rubber and a faint note of plasticine. It isn't the most complex of noses, but there are apples and rhubarb crumble with custard (or cream, they're both there separately) in the background. There is also a perfumey note somewhere in that, Old Spice, perhaps? There is something vaguely unpleasant about the aroma as a whole, a bit like the smell of damp in an empty house being warmed through by a coal fire - a little sulphur is detectable. There's a feint, almost unnoticeable odour of extinguished sparklers.
There is fire on the palate, both in flavour and sensation... which isn't something I expect for a 46% abv. Smoke and bonfire/cinder toffee come through with, but the burn is so long that only the end elements of the palate are able to be picked up. There are apples and cream again, with strawberry 'millions' and sherbet. Walnuts and porridge oats are also detectable. There is a little liquorice towards the end, leading into the finish.
The mouthfeel is dry and cloying, the finish is long, woody and soft. There's an oaky cream with cigar smoke left behind for quite a while. It does end rather bitter, though.
With water (just a drop - for review purposes only) the nose flattens down and loses lot of the pleasant aromas. The sulphurous notes pick up, along with ammonia. The nose is much sharper, somehow, and buns the nostrils a little. Thee are still nuts and cereals, but with a mouldy hint. Again, there is something perfumed, but more floral this time, more Chanel No. 5 than Old Spice, but it is feint and hidden at the back.
The palate is more agreeable, with the previous burn gone and replaced by marzipan and mixed peel. There's a damp log fire and heavy oak; a much more enjoyable smoke. The walnuts are now Brazil nuts and much more 'meaty', with mixed spice and fudge.
The finish is also flattened with water and the bitterness fades away leaving only oak behind, but still for a while.
There is a trade-off with this whisky, at the original 46%, it is sharp and aggressive; often unpleasant. With water, many of the flavours are dampened or missing altogether, you have a more aggressive nose, but you don't have such a problem with the chemicals on the palate.
Overall, this is a right-mood dram for me. Certainly nothing special and not at all refined, but it has a certain something that suits it to the cold wintry nights... as these start drawing in, this might come out more often... or maybe I'll just go for the Ardbeg.