I’ve reviewed very little Benrinnes on the blog and have not had very many more than I have reviewed. All the ones I have reviewed have been in their 20s, the oldest being this 23 yo distilled in 1988. Today’s is a year older than that but was distilled much earlier, in 1972. The early 1970s mark for many whisky geeks a boundary of sorts between eras. Whiskies made at a number of distilleries through 1972 or so have a greater reputation than anything they’ve made since (and in some cases, before). Such, for example, are Longmorn and Caperdonich. I somewhat doubt that there are any golden age narratives for Benrinnes, a distillery with not much of a reputation of any kind but I am interested to see what continuity, if any, there may be between Benrinnes of this era and more recent examples of its malt. Both the Whisky Exchange and Signatory 20 year olds I’ve reviewed had a bracing mix of lime peel and mineral notes with palpable peat. Let’s see if this one is in the same family (despite being from a sherry butt).
Benrinnes 24, 1972 (56.4%; Signatory; sherry butt #9602; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Bitter orange peel, lemon, menthol and quite a bit of tar. Quite a wild nose. As it sits a metallic note emerges as well. With more time there’s some honey and candle wax (shades of Clynelish). With water the tar gets pushed back and the citrus is emphasized.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose but the tar and other bitter notes are less pronounced. More acid on the second sip and the bitterness expands a bit (quinine). Nice oily texture at full strength. As it sits the bitterness moves towards lime zest and there’s a hint of musky fruit that plays with the hot tar that puts me in mind of Ardmore. Okay, let’s see what water does. Less bitter and more citrussy here too with water.
Finish: Medium-long. No new development but the tar re-emerges at the end. As on the nose and palate with water.
Comments: The sherry doesn’t make as much impact as the peat; I wonder what the peating level on this was. Water balances this but I have to say I quite enjoyed the wilder notes without water. No cookie-cutter malt and a profile that isn’t easy to find anymore—though this is very much in the same family as contemporary Benrinnes.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!