In my review of the Cadenhead’s Tamdhu from port casks I noted that I generally prefer peated port cask whisky. And here now is a peated port cask whisky, albeit only a finish, this one an official release from Benriach. I was not terribly impressed by the last peated Benriach I had, coincidentally also a 17 yo as this one is, but not from port casks (the Septendecim); I hope this one will be better.
Benriach 17 “Solstice”, 2nd Ed. (50%; peated, port finish; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: The peat comes through first and the usual farmy notes I get from peated Benriach are muted/rounded by the sweeter notes from the port. There’s some cherry but it’s not overbearing and is in nice balance with the smoke. Some lemon too and also some warmer vanilla/pastry notes. The sweetness never goes away but this gets more briny as it sits. Quite nice. With a lot more time there’s a nutty note as well (salted cashews) and the smoke gets much drier. Water brings out the berries and some cream, and some lemon peel as well.
Palate: As on the nose it’s the peat and smoke that strike first but there’s far less of the wine and sweet fruit here. Instead it’s lemon to the fore and the smoke gets ashy right behind it. The mouthfeel is a little thin for a whisky bottled at 50%. On the second sip the smoke is farmier/drier. With time there’s a little more sweet fruit, but it’s more in the raisin than berry family. Okay, let’s see what water does. Well, it brings out a stony quality but it also makes the smoke more acrid and throws off the balance.
Finish: Long. The lemon and smoke linger but it’s the smoke, dry and ashy that hangs around the longest. Gets saltier as it goes. Gets ashier with water and after a while a fair sight more leathery.
Comments: I quite like this. The port finish is unobtrusive–it sands off some of the rougher notes and adds some complexity missing in the Septendecim, but it doesn’t feel like there’s an ex-port layer sitting on top of the ex-bourbon layer. Quite nicely integrated, in other words. Kudos to the blenders! (And hold the water, though I did like what it did to the finish.)
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Patrick for the sample!