There are a few very iconic distilleries situated in the Speyside area of Scotland and the BenRiach distillery is certainly one of them in my mind, built back in 1898 the distillery has certainly had a chequered past with a lengthy closure in the early parts of the 1900’s until 1965 where only the floor maltings were still in operation.
The malting floor was used in order to help out the neighbouring distillery Longmorn which probably helped save the distillery, today the malting floor is still operational and supplies a small amount of the malted barley used today and of course helps keep up the old traditions.
After changing hands several times in its history the distillery is now under the watchful eye of Brown-Foreman and master Blender Rachel Barrie..
Luckily the takeover from the American giant has seen little disruption to the quality outturn we are used to from the 3 distilleries after it’s takeover ( BenRiach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh) and continues to release the much anticipated batch releases of single casks that many whisky fans drool over each year..
This latest release is batch 15 and comprises of a whopping 17 single casks for which 11 are unpeated and 6 are peated expressions.
The release boasts an impressive list of casks used including Virgin oak, Port pipes, Moscatel hogsheads, Sauternes barriques and rum barrels, which just shows the diversity of the distillery and the quality of wood management the previous management and present owners have implicated.
When asked about this release Master Blender Rachel Barrie had this to say..
“Batch 15 provides a rare opportunity to explore the many facets of BenRiach maturation in one batch, something us whisky makers are lucky to do every day. From the sweet side of Marsala wood to the exotic fruity side of Rum and the barbecued smokiness of charred American Virgin oak, there is a cask to suit every whisky lover’s palate. Now’s the time to explore, take your pick and find the cask you most enjoy!”
So this review is for two of the batch 15 release and pits two of the older expressions against each other.
First up is the 1992 expression from cask #979, this is drawn from a single Port hogshead and carries an age statement of 25 years, bottled at 53.9% this is of natural colour and is NCF..
Nose.. Very fruity start with oodles of dried fruits, rich plum pudding, candied orange, dark chocolate and soft spices. (After several minutes the chocolate notes really came to the fore )
Palate.. Dried fruits with a real oaky backdrop, spices with a little bitterness from citrus peels.. The chocolate notes re-appear with hints of a fruity Colombian coffee and winter berries.
Finish.. Slightly drying, fruity and lingering.
Next up is the 1997 cask #4437 hailing from one single Marsala Hogshead, carrying an age statement of 20 years this expression is bottled at 54.8% and again is natural colour and NCF..
Nose.. Again this starts with those Dried fruits but it has a fresher aroma with more emphasis on fruit juices like grape, apple and pear.. Soft spices mix with almonds, ginger infused chocolate, cherries and dark treacle.
Palate.. Fresh fruits do battle with dried fruits for supremacy, this is much fresher, a sweetness comes in the form of toffee, vanilla and molasses while a soft areay of spices bring in more depth..
Finish.. Lingering spice with a twist of fruit.
Thoughts.. The 92 certainly showed the maturity from its 25 years with a nice earthy feel and delicious aromas but the star in these two is the 97, this cask is bloody delicious and shows some real quality, the freshness and depth of flavours is ridiculous, from the moment it costs your mouth to the last seconds of the finish this shows off everything great about the distillery and the whisky produced..
Both expressions showed some real depth and complexity and are indicative of the Distillery profile while at the same time each gives you a little side step and insight into the wonderful world of single casks..
Now the only downside for me is that both these expressions are destined for the Asian / Australian / New Zealand and Canadian markets.. I guess this is the downside to single cask releases due to the small number of bottles produced.. But if you do see them and they are in your budget then snap them up !!
Benrich single casks 1992 V 1997, batch 15..
With thanks to BenRiach and Spey :progressive Comunications for these official samples.