Benrinnes 15, 2003 (Old Particular for K&L)


Benrinnes is a distillery whose whiskies I always find interesting. Sadly, I don’t often get a chance to taste them as there’s not a lot of it around—not in the US anyway. I’ve only reviewed a small handful on the blog. The last time I reviewed a Benrinnes bottled as an exclusive cask for K&L the bottler was Signatory and the cask was 20 years old. Now the bottler is Old Particular and the cask is 15 years old. However, as you will see, I had a similar experience with both: finding notes in them that I was not prepared for by K&L’s tasting notes, in particular, a fair bit of peat. I noted last time that I had worried that the sample had been mislabeled but then heard from others who had found similar things in it. This time I’ve not heard from anyone else. If you too have a sample of this whisky or, better still, an open bottle, do write in below to say if my notes track at all with yours. I’m particularly interested in hearing from you if you are not an employee of K&L. Let’s get to it.

Benrinnes 15, 2003 (56.9%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Organic notes to start—wet leaves, plus a whiff of a small creature rotting in them. On the second sniff it’s a bit more vegetal and there’s wax and some smoke as well. I’m not getting any of the fruit the K&L notes say are all over this nose; let’s see if they come out with some airing. Softens a bit with time—there’s vanilla now—but I can’t say I find very much more of the promised fruit—some tart apple, maybe. With water, yes, tart apple and lime and there’s some vanilla and cream too now.

Palate: Brighter here with lemon, a bit of honey and those wet leaves are now smouldering. Approachable but a little bit hot at full strength. Nice texture (that’s the worm tubs for you). On the second sip there’s lime peel and pepper and some char. A little chalkier with time. The lime expands as it sits but it’s not joined by any sweeter fruit; the char keeps going though. With water the smouldering leaves get positively charred.

Finish: Medium-long. The smouldering leaves are the main story here. Some salt at the very end with time. Longer but as on the palate with water.

Comments: I sat with this for almost two hours and cannot square my experience of this malt with K&L’s tasting notes. They had me prepared for a bright and sweet floral and fruity malt but, as you can see, those are not the notes that jumped out at me. Is it me? If you’ve opened a bottle of this I’d love to know what you make of it. Anyway, as different a malt as I find it to be than billed, I quite like it anyway.

Rating: 86 points.

4 thoughts on “Benrinnes 15, 2003 (Old Particular for K&L)

  1. I have an open bottle I’ve been drinking down slowly. Or more accurately, I opened the bottle, drank about a third of it, then forgot about it while I killed my half bottles (split with a friend) of Ben Nevis and Blair Athol that I acquired at the same time. When I first opened the Benrinnes I liked it but didn’t find much fruit either, mostly malt, spice, and sugar notes. I have revisited it on two separate occasions since you posted your review and now get a good amount of apple on the palate and a little tangerine in the finish, which aligns somewhat with the K&L tasting notes (I held off on re-reading their notes until now). I’m not sure if the bottle opened up a lot, or if my palate was wonky when I formed my initial opinions, probably some of both. I’m happy to send you a sample from the bottom half of my bottle if you want to give it another shot.

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    • So I’m not alone in not finding the abundant fruit K&L described. It sounds like the bottle does take a while to open up but but from what you say it’s not a fruit bomb for you even now. However, I gather that you didn’t get the organic notes either that I registered.

      Thanks for the offer of the sample but I think I’m fine with one pass at this.

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      • Correct, I would not describe it as a fruit bomb. It does seem lighter and fruitier than when the bottle was first opened but to me the fruit is restricted to apple. I did get some of the earthiness you described but mostly on the nose, and I perceived it as “leafy with some mushrooms”. I didn’t detect that on the palate, though I did get a pine note.

        For the Laing picks, I usually go by the tasting notes on the bottle when deciding what to purchase, just because they distill it down into a handful of descriptors, making it easier for me to guess which might be most to my liking. I always assumed these notes were created by the bottler and not the people picking, do you happen to know? Anyways, the palate notes listed are “green apples, lemon drops, sweet and toasted barley, orange rind, and dark chocolate.” So if the bottler does in fact write the notes, they found it to be quite fruity. I’m planning to revisit my bottle in another month or so to see if it keeps evolving.

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