BenRiach is a fiercely independent Speyside distillery producing some very interesting whiskies and many specialised or experimental finishes and bottlings. In fact the range is a bit much to get your head round at first. There are a number of unpeated and peated whiskies in the core range, a regular cadence of single cask bottlings and some very old, well respected and very expensive bottlings I probably will never get to try, let alone get my head around. Whatever you think of the whisky, and some of these are very, very good, you’d have to admit it must be pretty great working at BenRiach.
Actually I asked the warehouse manager that very question at the whisky show and he told me that it wasn’t that great (he did look pretty flustered), it was just hectic as the distillery now owns Glendronach and Glenglassaugh and the UK wants 70cl bottlings, and everywhere else 75cl bottlings and its a constant stream of work just getting the stuff shipped. I still reckon things are pretty good on his side of the fence compared to mine!
Anyway, to get my bearings with BenRiach I got hold of some samples of the core range from DBRB, and picked up a bottling from the Whisky Shop. The results were mixed, some of this seems a bit niche and some lacked the balance of the more restrained distilleries (a fascinating nose is often let down by an unbalanced body and finish), but there’s some real belters in here.
BenRiach Curiositas 10 year old, 40% B
Nose – Fruity and peated, burnt plastic note and a faint whiff of TCP. A bit unnatural.
Body – Very smooth, fresh and gently edge of peat with a massive fruity backdrop. Savoury, barley flavour too – very pleasant.
Finish – No real finish, balance falters
BenRiach Herodotus Fumosus 12 year old, PX finish, 46% A
Nose – Sweet toffee and burnt caramel, peat. Fresh smoke and an outdoor swimming pool in the rain*. Sherry back note with pineapple. Very faint bacon.
Body – Black pepper and spice, fresh smoked mackerel, syrupy sherry belt. Very spicy smoke explosion. Slightly sour backing which is a bit distracting**.
Finish – Long, dry sherry finish. Slightly sour development, smoke at the end.
* I realise that’s ridiculous but that’s what it reminds me of. At night.
** I couldn’t detect this on a second tasting.
BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus 12 year old, Dark Rum Cask, 46% A+
Nose – Sweet sherry nose with plastic, faint peat backing providing well balanced structure and interest. Rum note is harmonious and not overpowering.
Body – Peat and melon, alternating. Strong and well integrated wood, fantastic. Pears and rum development, balanced and smooth.
Finish – Very long, balanced smoke and marshmallows. Very good, fresh and refreshing finish.
On the list.
The Boutique-y Whisky Company – BenRiach Batch 2, 48.1% A
Nose – Cider apples, sweet honey and oak, a peated backnote. Lovely. Almost a bacon or burnt popcorn note.
Body – Rounded, structured, bold but very smooth, although perhaps too mild for all that. Cherries and banana sweets, peat again at the end. Salty.
Finish – Long, balanced, delicious mild peat integration.
Very pleasant but quite expensive and a bit mild for my tastes.
BenRiach Solstice 17 year old (2nd Edition), 50% A⊕
Finished in tawny port casks. Red brick colour, almost copper.
Nose – Fruit salad chews and red berries. Sweet peat, perfectly integrated with the red berries. Sweet but intensely savoury, even on the nose. Loads of leather.
Body – Massive fruit salad chew opening, developing into stunning peat explosion. Absolutely beautiful. Fruit versus peat, apples win.
Finish – Peat explosion, toast. Long drawn out fruit and peat finish. Absolutely fantastic, savoury rollercoaster of a whisky.
On the list.
BenRiach Septendecim 17 year old, 46% C
Nose – Fresh, watery, peated barley. Sweet backing with honey and cereal bar.
Body – Very toasted, medicinal phenols. Quite unbalanced and off edge to the palate. Unbalanced peat without elegance. Thought my palate was tainted but I confirmed it a week later. Better with water though.
Finish – Very long but not very pleasant. Off, sour edge. Tainted.
BenRiach 16 year old Sauternes Finish, 46% A
Nose – Fresh sherry, a little uncomplicated but very pleasant. Rhubarb and custard sweets, tropical fruit chews. More clean Speyside beauty is lurking with further investigation. A bit of bookcase.
Body – Delicious and sweet with a forenote of oak and pears. Lovely integration.
Finish – Initially short but then comes back, fresh finish, big bite of bitterness at the end as the balance falters. Loads of virgin oak at the side of the tongue.
BenRiach Authenticus 25 year old peated, 46% A+
Nose – Light, very fruity peat. Sugary BBQ. A bonfire crossed with melon and pineapple. Library and burning electrical insulation, very tropical.
Body – Very rich, oily, extremely peated body. Very well balanced, quite delicious and very robust. Great sweetness under a blanket of peat smoke and matches.
Finish – Very, very long. Massive peat crossing over and over with oak. Sechuan peppercorns and wet cardboard.
BenRiach 17 year old (1995) Whisky Shop Exclusive, 53.1%, A+
Nose – Fresh, wooded,tropical nose – golden honeyed Speysider. Fruity and rich, real pineapple and banana edge, with a meaty, savoury back note. Beautiful, rich and moreish but missing elegance.
Body – Rich, peppery, good oak and tannin with the fruit. Oak attacks the front and side of the palate, leading to…
Finish – Sweet banana, biting tannins and then a rolling finish between the two oaks.
I’m a fan and interested in everything they have to offer. Its a good thing that there’s some stuff here I don’t get on with right now – there’s also some whisky that seems very obvious here (the Whisky Shop exclusive is a bit one dimensional for all its excellence). In general I think the peated stuff is a bit less interesting than that non but the base level is very good.