Here is the first of two Benrinnes reviews this week. This one was bottled by the famous French store, La Maison Du Whisky in their Artist series. The label lists the vintage as 1995 but the age is given as “Over 20 Years”. Which is true as it was bottled in 2018. This is the first instance I can remember of a bottler choosing not to go with a higher number on a label—was/is this par for the course for the Artist series? This means that this is probably the same age as my next Benrinnes, which is also from 1995 and is marked as a 22 yo by bottler Signatory. Indeed, I remember reading at some point that Signatory is probably the source of La Maison Du Whisky’s casks and so this may well be from the same parcel. I haven’t yet looked up the particulars of that cask and to do so would require me to get up and walk across the room so you’ll have to wait a couple of days or hope I remembered to do so before finalizing this review.
Benrinnes 20, 1995, Artist #8 (49.4%; La Maison Du Whisky; hogshead 9063; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big bowl of cut fruit: tart-sweet apples, pineapple and nectarines, all drizzled with honey. A slight leafy and grassy note cuts through the sweetness. As it sits there’s cereals and malt and pastry crust; the leafy note expands as well. With more time and air the leafy note recedes a little and the fruit gets muskier. With a few drops of water the fruit is the whole story as candied lemon peel joins the party (hints of citronella on the edges); some wax too now.
Palate: Comes in sweet and it’s not terribly interesting at first; but as I swallow there’s a big burst of tropical fruit (ripe pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The texture is rich and oily and it’s at a good drinking strength. On the second and third sips the hint of passionfruit turns into a suggestion but there’s not a whole lot of change after that. Okay, let’s see what water does for it. Water makes the palate fruitier and more interesting from the get-go bringing in malt and lemon and honey and wax.
Finish: Medium-long. The musky fruit expands picking up metallic notes as it goes. Quite a bit of oak spice at the end and then the leafy note lingers (the leaves are a little bit charred at this point). With time the tropical notes expand considerably and the metallic and oaky notes take a backseat. Water pushes the tropical complex back a bit but it’s still palpable.
Comments: This is really lovely stuff. The nose and finish are great from the get-go. The palate is the weak link here but it’s improved considerably by water. Very reminiscent of ex-bourbon Clynelish of similar age in many ways. I’d be very happy if I had the better part of a bottle left of this (though I expect it was very expensive).
Rating: 88 points.