Last month I reviewed an older Benriach that was released in 2016 as part of the distillery’s 13th batch of single cask releases. I thought that one—an oloroso finish applied to whisky made from a peated run—was fine but nothing very special. This Benriach was also part of Batch 13 and is also a sherry finish, though PX this time; it is not, however, made from peated barley. I note that there was a Glendronach-style outturn of 670 bottles at a high strength. I’d guess multiple hogsheads were re-racked into a PX puncheon for a short time, making this a Glendronach-style “single cask”. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad whisky though. Let’s see what it’s like.
Benriach 18, 1998, PX Sherry Finish (57.3%; Batch 13, cask 6401; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich sherried nose with plums, hoisin sauce and then some perfumed wood. The wood is more assertive on the second sniff—spicier and oakier now; the red fruit expands too, getting a touch cough syrupy. Water pushes both the richer notes and the spicy oak back and pulls out some pencil lead. With a lot more water there’s a mild, pleasant note of orange and a tiny bit of oak.
Palate: Leads with the oak and it’s quite bitter; the sweet fruit is behind. Drinkable at full strength but between the oak and the alcohol it packs quite a bite and not an altogether pleasant one. A few more sips and if there’s no improvement I’ll add water. Nope: still essentially bitter oak extract on the second sip. And on the third sip. Let’s see if water can salvage this palate. Well, no, it can’t. Slightly less bitter now but also more tannic. Okay, I’m going to really dilute this fucker down—below 40%—and see what that does. Well, it makes it drinkable, which is something.
Finish: Medium. Hot and bitter. Longer with water but that’s not a good thing.
Comments: I find the 88 point average rating for this on Whiskybase a little hard to understand. Neat, the nose is nice but it’s only borderline drinkable. Water blanks the nose and doesn’t improve the palate. I wonder what this was like before the PX finish was applied…It does have a lovely mahogany colour though. If you still have a bottle, good luck to you!
Rating: 75 points.