With the holiday of Passover over, whisky is back on the table, and I start with a selection which is actually my first look at Rachel Barrie’s work as whisky maker for Brown Foreman (Not that selecting single casks isn’t work, but once vatting casks is involved, you’re actually creating whisky). This selection includes four releases from Glenglassugh, a peated GlenDronach and two older BenRiachs, the first of which is today’s review.
Befitting a revived mothballed distillery with inherited stock, BenRiach’s offerings were all over the place, with a constantly shifting (or just nonexistent) core range. Obviously, with the distillery only coming back online in 2004, by 2015 we saw the 10 year old coming in (and the Heart of Speyside, but best I not mention it), and it seems that Rachel Barrie is now working toward creating a steady core range starting with a 10, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 12 coming out sometime this year as the range builds. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on a 10, 12, 16 and 21 as the core range.
Another indicator of the long term plans Brown Foreman has, is the way Rachel Barrie constructed this expression. It has whisky from bourbon barrels, virgin oak casks, Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and red wine casks. Basically, the blender has an unlimited ability to keep this expression going consistently, since there are so many variations that can be controlled through the various cask contribution.
BenRiach 21 – Four Cask Matured (46% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Gold, the whisky leaves a lot of residue on the glass.
Nose: Creamy malt, honey, honeysuckle flowers, hints of oak, green and baked apples with cinnamon, a touch of leather and a hint of fresh orange juice and a baking pound cake.
Palate: Very BenRiach with the maltiness, gentle pepper, some dryness, cardamom, that orange juice comes back with a small pinch of cumin.
Linger: Sweetness on the tongue, with wood spices down the gullet. This is a very warming dram, leaving you with a taste for another sip.
Complex, with each of the four types of casks clearly making a contribution. You can tell that both thought and care when into choosing the casks for this expression, which is beautifully crafted.