Apr 082018
 

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.

Photo Credit: Brown Foreman

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.

 

Photo Credit: BenRiach PR

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.

Conclusion

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.

Aug 012016
 

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.

Photo Credit: mapio.net

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.

 

Photo Credit: masterofmalt.com

Photo Credit: masterofmalt.com

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.

Conclusion

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.

Dec 112015
 

My local retailer, Wine and Flavors, held a GlenDronach tasting on Wednesday. This store is at a great location, being only 650 meters (or about 2200 feet) from my house, and has the absolute best selection of whisky in Israel, with a rather impressive selection of independent bottlings imported by the store itself. Also, the store recently opened a tasting room, which also houses the whisky collection, so every visit is a pleasure. Originally, the tasting was supposed to be of the GlenDronach core range with a 1995 single cask bottling of GlenDronach, so I wasn’t planning on going, but then things became interesting as it was announced that a representative from the distillery will be leading the tasting, making it a learning opportunity for me. Thus, I registered and came to the tasting.

BenRiach’s official importer to Israel is Anotka, and we’re slowly starting to get the core range of both BenRiach alongside the GlenDronach core which are already here. Local pricing to me is an issue, but when I raised the issue with the importer I was told that their allocations are unable to keep up with demand on all the GlenDronach expressions. Since it appears the local market is willing to gobble up whatever stocks come into the country at whatever price, I guess pricing here just is what it is.

© Malt and Oak

Bottles not in the order tasted…. © Malt and Oak

Added to the lineup were two BenRiach expressions, the Heart Of Speyside, added to the lineup by Osher Peretz, the owner of Wines & Flavors, and the 16 year old that was added when it became available in Israel, a few weeks back. While the 16 year old is an enjoyable clean ex bourbon matured whisky, although it’s rather one dimensional, the Heart of Speyside didn’t excite me.

After the two BenRiach expressions, we went up the GlenDronach core. Once again confirming to me that my favorite is, indeed, the 15 year old Revival, which will sadly be unavailable for three years or so. After tasting the full vertical again, I can’t help but wonder if the 15 doesn’t have a bit of PX matured whisky thrown in…

David led a rather informal tasting, taking a lot of questions and dispensing information rather freely. It was a real pleasure to have such an frank and open talk in such a public setting. My friend Assaf translated David into Hebrew for some of the participants, and added from his own very extensive whisky knowledge.

Anyway, the 1995 single cask was excellent (and merits its own review), and then came a surprise: The importer brought a bottle of the BenRiach 35 as a surprise bonus dram, and it was a very fitting coming just three days before my birthday 🙂

Osher, the owner of Wines and Flavors, with the 35 © Malt and Oak

Osher Peretz, the owner of Wines and Flavors, with the 35
© Malt and Oak

And yes, it’s good!

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

BenRiach 35 Year Old (42.5% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Mahogany, steady necklace with droplets.

Nose: Anise, leather, spearmint gum, sherry sweetness, melon, a more woodsy star anise and a hint of vinegar. There’s also honey, a light fruit compote and oak, with a faint hint of smoke. The anise and gum and absolutely stunning

Palate: Viscous and dry, sweetness and some bitterness, a lot of oak, gentle red berries, a light old wood flavor behind honey and a hint of citrus.

Linger: Spice high in the throat, the tannins linger in the mouth giving a very drying effect. A dry spice leaves the mouth with a concentrated linger for a long time, turning after a few minutes sweeter.

Conclusion

Dignified, tasty and fascinating. This expression is actually relatively new, as it was released last year to replace the old 30 year old and is from the time that the distillery was owned by Glenlivet. There are both sherry and bourbon casks in the mix here, but the ratios are unspecified.

Put this on your “drams to taste” list. It’s different and is very enjoyable.

Thanks, Assaf, for making sure I DID register for the tasting 🙂

 

Nov 202014
 

BenRiach_Importanticus_FumosusI found this expression to be the best of the quatret. It might just be my sweet tooth, but the tawny port finish works rather well with this spirit. Mind you, it’s not the Solstice, but it’s a solid expression.

BenRiach 12 Importanticus Fumosus, Tawny Port Finish (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Bronze, quick and thin legs.

Nose: Warm and sweet peat, coffee cake, cinnamon. The peat and port work well, and even better with a bit of water which brings out baked pears in wine.

Palate: Viscous in mouth, there are yellow raisins, baked apple in cinnamon, peat, nutmeg and Cadbury milk chocolate.

Linger: Peat on the tongue with some wine-y sweetness.

Conclusion

Of the four expressions, this one works best. Not surprising, as in general the BenRiach spirit fairs pretty well with Port.

This concludes our first series on BenRiach, and tomorrow we’ll meet Bunnahabhain’s newest expression, harking back to the turn of the 20th century….

Nov 192014
 

Day three of the Fumosus series brings us to the PX finished Heredotus Fumosus. As opposed to the first two expression (the dark rum and the Madeira), the PX is a nice expression, second only to the port finished Importanticus Fumosus which will be reviewed tomorrow.

BenRiach 12 Heredotus Fumosus, Pedro Ximénez Finish (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber with thin legs.

Nose: Peat and Christmas cake, vanilla, sweet sherry, faint cigarette smoke and jelly cookies.

Palate: Peat, lemon/citrus with some sweetness and notes of cream soda.

Linger: Warming in the gullet, the linger is sweet with a saccarin-y quality.

Conclusion

As I said, this is an interesting expression, and makes for a decent dram. However, this is by no means a sherry bomb, and is big on the peat with the sherry only giving highlights.