Benriachs from the 1970s have a very strong reputation among many whisky geeks. 1976 is the “vintage” that is claimed to be the magical one (see again my annoying opinions on this subject here and here) but by and large all 1970s Benriachs are expected to be good. The distillery under the ownership of the Walkers (who recently sold it and Glendronach and Glenglassaugh to Brown-Forman) built its latter-day reputation on a program of annual single cask releases (as they did with Glendronach). Oddly, while they seem to have fudged the re-racking and de facto finishing that probably went on with a number of the Glendronach releases, in the case of Benriach they noted clearly when casks had been finished in sherry or port or whatever. This particular cask was finished in PX sherry, which is the sort of thing that makes you wonder: why does an older bourbon cask whisky need to go into a PX cask?
Well, let’s see how it all worked out anyway. I did like the last Benriach single cask I tried a lot and that was an even unlikelier combination of peated malt and a tawny port finish!
Benriach 34, 1977 (54.3%; PX sherry cask 1034; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Starts out with pencil lead and polished oak and then the fruit comes pouring out: plum, cherry, orange peel, blackberry jam. Some clove too below all that. Not much development after that though. The fruit is to the fore with water (berries and cream now).
Palate: Quite oaky to begin—the sweeter notes are in there with the wood but they all sort of run together. Somewhat cherry cola’ish on the second sip with more of the pencil lead/graphite from the nose. More citrus as it heads to the finish. With time it gets a bit cough-syrupy. Better balance with water but nothing new emerges.
Finish: Medium-long. Interplay of the red fruit and citrus is the story here with the oak emerging again at the end. Spicier with water.
Comments: Let no one tell you that all 1970s Benriach is amazing. This is quite nice but it is in no way anything out of the ordinary. I’m not sure how long the PX finish lasted but I have a feeling it was done mostly to saw off overpowering oak from the first maturation. As a result, perhaps, it doesn’t taste anywhere close to its age, with not much secondary or tertiary development or depth. Better with water.
Rating: 86 points.