I’ve had variable luck with the official Benriachs I’ve recently reviewed. I thought this 29 yo from 1986, peated with an oloroso finish was good but nothing very special. On the other hand, I did not care very much at all for this 18 yo from 1998, which was not peated but had a PX sherry finish applied to it. As it happens, this Benriach 12—which dates from the period when Benriach were issuing whiskies with stupid faux-Latin names—is peated with a PX finish. So, will it fall between the other two or will it go past them and approach the wild glory of the 21 yo Authenticus? Only one way to find out.
By the way, I’ve no memory of how/where I received this sample. Normally, I would have suspected Jordan D. (who has reviewed it) and Michael K (also) of being likely sources, but the ugly scrawl on the label is mine. While I used to save reference samples from my own bottles once upon a time, I’ve never owned a full bottle of this. I think that might indicate that I filled it from a bottle someone brought a couple of years ago to one of my friend Rich’s “sherryfest” tastings in St. Paul. Yes, I know, not a very interesting mystery. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
One more peated whisky to round out the week and it’s the oldest of the three. It was distilled in 1986 and released in 2016, as part of Batch 13 of Benriach’s “single cask” releases. Like Monday’s Lagavulin, this was made complicatedly: distilled from peated barley, (presumably) matured in ex-bourbon barrels for a good while and then finished in an oloroso sherry cask. Interestingly, Billy Walker and co.—then owners of both Glendronach and Benriach—were more forthcoming on labels of Benriach than they were about the so-called single casks of Glendronach (none of which, as far as I know, had or have the word “finished” anywhere on their labels). How long this finish was is, nonetheless, not specified. And nor is there any reason to believe that this is a true “single cask” as most people would understand the term and not another case of multiple casks being re-racked together into a sherry cask for the final bit of maturation/finishing. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Hello! This is the Benriach 21 Authenticus, one of the long line of whiskies with silly names released in the Billy Walker era at the distillery; this one was peated to boot. It was discontinued some years ago and replaced with a 25 yo. I have no idea if that 25 yo has since been replaced by a NAS whisky named Feinticus Erroneous, though I rather expect it has. I purchased this from Binny’s as well right before it went off the market and only recently got around to opening it for one of my local group’s tastings. It was a big hit there, not least for displaying certain characteristics that you may be able to discern by reading between the lines of my opaque notes below. These characteristics, surprisingly, are not noted by everyone who has reviewed it—Serge, for example, mentions them not. Michael K., on the other hand, recognizes them gleefully, and if anyone should know, it is he. (Let’s just say that he has a great enthusiasm for horticulture.) Anyway, on to the untimely review! Continue reading
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
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
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
I 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
One 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
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, 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.