Benriach 34, 1977, Cask 1034

Benriach 34, 1977

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! Continue reading

Benriach 27, 1984, Cask 4050

Benriach 27, 1984, Peated, Tawny Port Finish
This Benriach, peated and finished in a tawny port cask, was brought by my friend Rich to a whisky gathering to celebrate his birthday last fall. It is from a cask that won a “Gold Medal” from the Malt Maniacs back in 2012, also picking up their award that year for the best peated whisky. The Malt Maniacs may award a lot of medals but very few of them are gold and so this would seem to be a sure thing. At our tasting, however, it got a less rapturous reception. While no one came close to disliking it, most of us—including me—found it a bit of an oddball (though I liked its oddness a lot), with vegetal, meaty and sweet flavours going in and out. It was not clear, however, if it was suffering juxtapositional effects: everything else we had that night was fairly straightforward ex-boubon or ex-sherry and it’s possible aspects of the port/peat character got exaggerated as a result. I came away with a large sample though and so am able now to evaluate it by itself. Continue reading

Benriach 19, 1994 (for K&L)

Benriach 19, 1994, K&L
Here is the second of two reviews of K&L exclusives. I did not enjoy last week’s Faultline Blended Scotch Whisky at all. Will this Benriach, which is much older, be better? It won’t take much. This is from a bourbon barrel and made from peated malt (Benriach is one of the few Speyside distilleries that regularly issues peated whisky—see also my reviews of their Curiositas, Septendecim, Arumaticus Fumosus and Solstice). K&L originally attempted to sell it for $150 but after a while were forced to lower the price to $109, at which point it eventually sold out. Good to see sanity prevailing every once in a while among customers in our overheated market.

As with the Faultline blend, this is review is being posted simultaneously with that of Michael K. and Jordan D. I’ll have the links once everything’s live. I wonder if we’ll have more agreeement this time. Continue reading

BenRiach 12, “Arumaticus Fumosus”

Arumaticus FumosusI mentioned the silly Latin names of BenRiach’s peated whiskies in my review of the Curiositas yesterday. Well, as silly names go, Arumaticus Fumosous is hard to top (at least, so I thought till I remembered the name of their peated port finish in this series: the Importanticus Fumosus). This is a 12 yo finished in Jamaican dark rum barrels. I’m not sure if this is the Curiositas + 2 years in rum casks or some other formulation. I do hope I’ll like it better. Let’s get right to it.

BenRiach 12, “Arumaticus Fumosus” (46%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: The same dry, farmy peat as in the Curiositas (and the other peated BenRiachs I’ve tried) but the rougher edges are sawed off. I’m not sure if this is the doing of the rum casks–the rum certainly is not obviously in evidence at first. There is more vanilla along with some lime and kiwi, maybe a hint of ripe banana. The fruit recedes as it sits and the smoke gets more organic: leafy, mossy. With more time there’s a mellow sweetness under the smoke and citrus. With even more time there’s a briny, coastal note. More organic again with water. Continue reading

BenRiach 10, “Curiositas”

CuriositasOne of the younger entries in Benriach’s series of peated whiskies with silly Latin names, the Curiositas is one I’ve had my eye on for a long time but never been able to bring myself to buy. Thanks to a sample trade I finally get to check it out. This is a 10 yo from bourbon casks (I believe). I was not overly enamoured of its older sibling, the Septendecim but I did quite like the Solstice 2nd. Ed.. Let’s see what this one is like.

BenRiach 10, “Curiositas” (46%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Dry, farmy peat–a lot of it. Heavier phenolic notes lie below the farmy/organic notes and there’s a fair bit of salt as well. Some lime too and after a while there’s some sweeter fruit. The peat becomes less insistent (or perhaps my nose adjusts) and now there’s some light pastry/vanilla. With time it’s a nice melange of lime, salt, stony sweetness, mild smoke and vanilla. A few drops of water really emphasize the lime and pull out some more farmy smoke, but it’s integrated nicely with the lime. Continue reading

Benriach 17, “Solstice”, 2nd Ed.

Benriach Solstice, 2nd Ed.In my review of the Cadenhead’s Tamdhu from port casks I noted that I generally prefer peated port cask whisky. And here now is a peated port cask whisky, albeit only a finish, this one an official release from Benriach. I was not terribly impressed by the last peated Benriach I had, coincidentally also a 17 yo as this one is, but not from port casks (the Septendecim); I hope this one will be better.

Benriach 17 “Solstice”, 2nd Ed. (50%; peated, port finish; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The peat comes through first and the usual farmy notes I get from peated Benriach are muted/rounded by the sweeter notes from the port. There’s some cherry but it’s not overbearing and is in nice balance with the smoke. Some lemon too and also some warmer vanilla/pastry notes. The sweetness never goes away but this gets more briny as it sits. Quite nice. With a lot more time there’s a nutty note as well (salted cashews) and the smoke gets much drier. Water brings out the berries and some cream, and some lemon peel as well. Continue reading

Benriach “Septendecim”

Benriach Septendecim

Benriach, a Speyside distillery, known mostly for a fruity, unpeated malt also has made a good amount of peated malt over the years, much of which has been released in single cask form in the last few years. Some of these have been very well-received, and usually they seem to be matured or finished in sherry/port/etc. casks. The peated whisky in their regular line is mostly ex-bourbon (I believe) and they bear odd Latin names such as “Curiositas” and “Authenticus” and so forth. Hence perhaps the name of this 17 yo which is also peated and was quite a hit when it came out almost two years ago. I finished my bottle almost exactly a year ago but, as is my wont, saved a 6 oz reference sample from when the bottle was at its prime.

Continue reading