Some malts leave you at once speechless and tripping over your tongue. You know…the ones where you find yourself gobsmacked simply at the opportunity to try them (yes…fortunately that does still happen, even this deep into the game) and stuttering to make sense of what you’re tasting. This Ben Wyvis is just such a one.
The distillery was one of the shorter lived in Scotland, shuttering with resounding finality in 1977 after a mere dozen years of production. Releases are nearly non-existent, somewhat controversial (a misleading offering by Invergordon under the Ben Wyvis name), and not particularly held in the highest of esteem. None of which matters, though. These sorts of drams are the reason Scotch whisky has stoked the fire in my belly for all these long years.
I think it goes without saying that this is a piece of liquid history. And if you’re not in the know…the Ben Wyvis stills (and much of the other equipment) were scooped up by Hedley Wright for a song and carted off to Campbeltown to be used in the rebirth of the Glengyle distillery. You know that funky and delicious young Kilkerran you love? Yep…that spirit bubbled away in the Ben Wyvis stills.
50.1% abv. 84 bottles. Distilled in 1968 and bottled in 2000.
Sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.
Nose: Antique-y, in a way. Or at least a near-extinct style of malt. Char and dunnage. A decently lively cask. Some tangy fruits. Also some strangely spiced fruits. Old books and a spice cabinet long neglected and gone to stale and fading. A bit of an odd funk that’s stubborn and elusive when it comes to tasting notes. Vegetal, maybe? Sticky candied walnuts. A slight licorice-y note in there too. Buried in there are some rather neat fruit tones too.
Palate: Plum (neat!). Some smoke and a bit of cask char (is it maybe lightly peated?) Black current. Burnt pastry. Pepper and ginger. Under ripe guava. Someone mentioned dirty water or something of that ilk.
Finish: Gristy. Quite long. A bit tannic.
Thoughts: Quite difficult to unravel, actually. Or maybe it’s just that the notes are some that I either can’t pinpoint or haven’t yet met. Either way…no masterpiece, to be sure, but one fuck of a cool malt to try. I may be overscoring a tick. But maybe not. I really don’t know.