It has pretty much become de rigueur for distilleries to have a (usually NAS) youngish cask strength offering. GlenDronach’s excellent sherried cask strength went into five batches before a comparable offering was made from BenRiach. This makes sense, as the distillery obviously wanted to use whisky distilled under the new owners, as nowhere does the distillery character show through, to the extent that distillery character really exists, as in the youngish cask strength whisky. I think GlenDronach was able to have their first batch out by December of 2012 by virtue of the sherry maturation, both in Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez casks, whereas bourbon matured whisky simply needs more time to lose that new make nose.
There is a plethora of sherry matured cask strength offerings on the market. From Glenfarclas’ venerable 105 which has been on the market for almost 50 years (since 1968, to be accurate) and the Springbank 12 Cask Sterngth (or the 10 year old 100 proof, if that can be considered real “cask strength”), to the aforementioned GlenDronach Cask Strength, through Aberlour’s excellent A’bunadh (on its 56th batch and going strong), Glengoyn’s beautiful sherried expressions and on to the newer players on the block such as the Tomatin Cask Strength (although not being a classic sherry cask strength expression, much like the Arran 12 year old cask strength), Benromach 10 100 proof (again, if we consider 100 proof to be cask strength) and Tamdhu’s Batch Strength.
BenRiach took a different path, releasing a wholly bourbon matured cask strength expression, which is smart considering the fact that a sherried expression would directly compete with GlenDronach’s expression, as well as filling a niche in the market which, at the moment, is under populated. Of course there is Laphroaig’s cask strength expressions, but I’ll leave the peated versions out of this discussion altogether.
BenRiach Cask Strength – Batch 1 (57.2% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Deep gold, very slow legs with a lot of residue.
Nose: Very cereal-y, vanilla, citrus notes with touches of lemon zest. Hint of milk chocolate. With time, toast and butter and some orange peel marmalade. Water brings out more of the honey.
Palate: Cereal and pepper with some other spices in the background. With water, it’s sweeter and a little less peppery, at least until you hold it in your mouth for a few seconds.
Linger: The pepper is the first thing to Linger, but sweet notes appear on the tongue. With water the linger is dryer.
Pretty good, and a nice diversion from the sherry matured cask strength expressions out there. The palate lacks a bit of complexity, but overall it’s a good dram with water. I do think it would have benefited from some older casks.