This weekend’s London Whisky Show presented attendees with a glimpse of whisky’s future – a future that still seems in some quarters inherently grounded in the past. Well-known players rolled out their long-established core ranges, steeped in history and vague suggestions of tradition, whilst new entrants presented attendees with an alternative direction for the category. Gone are the days when show-goers would fawn over big brands and their largest age-statement bottlings (though that’s still certainly a ‘thing’). The wealth of first time IB exhibitors and new distilleries offered a showcase of the whisky future that’s yet to come – and it was around these stands that the buzz and interest was most palpable.
I’m notionally a little out of sequence with reviewing the Whisky Show ‘Future of Whisky’ bottlings, having featured the Ledaig earlier this week – so, rather than inadvertently causing a world-ending paradox, today we’re going back to the future to take a look at the Ben Nevis 21 year old Future of Whisky – Past Future. Whisky Exchange’s Raj Chavda – who designs all of the company’s original labels has really outdone himself with this year’s show bottlings. The 10th anniversary expressions all feature nifty visualisations of rocket ships, brought to life through the use of lenticular printing. They all look ace.
The Ben Nevis bottling is the most retro of the three labels featuring a rocket ship that appears to be a mashup of TinTin Destination Moon and Thunderbird 3. Its drawn from a sherry butt that produced only 144 bottles at 47.5%, and has (had?!) a sticker price of £130. Hopefully Exchange held back just a few bottles for sale on their website, if not, I expect these to become rather desirable via auction sites in no time. They might look retro, but the juice inside is anything but…
Nose: Ripe and inviting orchard fruits lead off – apples and particularly pears. There’s both freshly picked and also sweetened varieties here – perhaps a newly baked apple turnover or a wee nip of Poire William. Fruitiness extends into citrus, with lemony polish suggesting a high quality maturation. Gooseberry and greengage add to the mix, providing tartness for balance. In the background, gentle chocolate, cinnamon spicing and a crumble of shortbread biscuits. Reduction (though there’s not actual need beyond personal experimentation) heightens the bakery aromas further – cookie dough and hazelnut Hobnobs.
Taste: The man from Del Monte says yes. A riot of fruits on the arrival, with the addition of some lovely tropical juice – mangos, spit roasted pineapple and hints of guava. Running throughout – slight toasted bread and a whiff of tobacco smoke – golden, fresh and still moist. Polished wood is discernible, but exceptionally assimilated – adding some sharpness, but without ever feeling overwrought. Biscuits are present as with the nose, but expressed more lightly, playing second fiddle to intensely fruity spirit. Likewise, whilst you might expect a ton of berry fruit from the sherry influence, here it’s so feint and integrated that it’s almost a memory. The addition of water sweetens things up a notch – fruits becoming tinned, the wood, just fading in the background a touch.
Finish: Long, with reduced pan sugars, orchard fruits and an interesting fresh herbal mint/menthol quality.
This might be the Ghost of Christmas Past bottling from the trio of show releases, but its bang on the current zeitgeist for exceptionally fruity whisky. Blind tasted, I doubt few hold it against you for guessing that this hails from the Emerald Isle. The Ben Nevis spirit is bright, crisp and surprisingly clean, showing little of the dirty character that it sometimes is associated with. This is sherry butt maturation done proper. Quite excellent. Fire up the DeLorean.