Thursday 18 November 2021

Benriach New Range [Tasted: #545 - #551]

Benriach has had a long history. It started off as Longmorn's sister plant in 1898 (four years following the establishment of Longmorn). Founded by the entrepreneurial John Duff, the Speyside distillery was then known as Longmorn No 2. Benriach's initial fate was fairly short-lived when it closed in 1900 and it wasn't until 65 years later that it began to distil whisky again. In the intervening years, Longmorn went through various cycles and though it officially bottled as a single malt, those releases were never as startling as Longmorn or Glen Grant.

In 2003, Benriach was once again mothballed. This time by Pernod Ricard and at the time, it looked like Benriach had jinxed its fate once again. However, this time was different, Benriach was bought in 2004 by a South African consortium, led by former Burn Stewart managing director, Billy Walker. Walker and his team launched a series of different malts including rich, heavily peated whiskies. Over the subsequent years, Walker grew Benriach into one of the most fascinating distilleries in Scotland which led Benriach to be known for carrying complex, spicy, and rather exciting quality on the palate.

Thanks to a long-standing tradition of distilling three styles of whisky; classic unpeated, Highland peated and triple distilled, together with an eclectic selection of casks from around the world, Benriach has been known to be able to explore different flavour possibilities of single malt.

This tradition continues today, under the guidance of Master Blender, Rachel Barrie and Rachel has been instrumental with Benriach's latest portfolio of single malts. The new portfolio of single malts and the new look is inspired by the distillery’s creative heritage and presents a rather diverse, versatile, fruit-laden style and a range of spectrum of whisky flavours that Benriach is known for.

On the new range, Benriach Master Blender, Dr Rachel Barrie said:

“The new range perfectly marries tradition and innovation that is central to Benriach’s story. Inspired by the 1994 bottling of the Original Ten, with its fruit-laden complexity and smooth, rounded taste, the new range re-imagines the 1898 origins of Benriach, brought to life in the 21st century through fusing distilling styles with extraordinary casks.

The new Benriach range is for those open to new possibilities, building on a wealth of experience and tradition. I invite the drinker to join me on this creative journey, as we explore the rich rewards of Single Malt whisky.” 

The core range is made up of four different expressions from a three cask maturation process

  • Benriach "The Original Ten"
  • Benriach "The Twelve"
  • Benriach "The Smoky Ten"
  • Benriach "The Smoky Twelve"

"In the new Original Ten, a more richly flavoured, rounded malt character might be discerned, whilst The Twelve balances richly sherried malt with added layers of fruit complexity, reaching a pinnacle at twelve years old.

The new Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve explore the sweet smokiness of Benriach, enriched through innovative combinations of rum, virgin oak and marsala casks interwoven with more traditional bourbon and sherry." Barrie says

In addition to the core range, there are also three premium releases and two travel retail releases:
  • Benriach "Twenty One"
  • Benriach "Twenty Five"
  • Benriach "The Thirty"
  • Benriach "Quarter Cask" (Travel Retail)
  • Benriach "Smoky Quarter Cask" (Travel Retail - note the change from peated to smoky)

In addition to Benriach The Original Ten, the Core Range will feature a new recipe for Benriach’s richly sherried twelve-year-old whisky, including port and bourbon casks combined to add to the complexity. The sweet smoky whisky distilled in the distillery’s smoke season also features in the new Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve Year Old expressions.

The premium set sees the Twenty One, Twenty Five and Thirty Year Old Single Malts that have been put together through a diverse selection of oak casks (four different casks in fact) to provide additional layouts of complexity and richness.

The new range offers something for everyone, in particular with the core range where there are two different takes of the 10yo and 12yo that offer both, classic Speyside style malts or a smoky variant. I particularly enjoyed both the Twelve expressions and found both to be rich, creamy and quite intriguing on both the nose and the palate. The premium range, with its four cask style, provide a very unique profile. Rachel Barrie has created a very balanced yet intriguing set of whiskies, in particular across the older age profiles.

The new range; the 10yo, 10yo Smoky and 12yo will roll out this month. The 12yo Smoky will be released after Christmas time. The premium range; the 21yo, 25yo and 30yo will not land on our shores until 2022.

Benriach "The Original Ten" (43%, Speyside, Scotland, A$85) 

Nose: The nose is rather fruity, there is apple, vanilla, sweet bread, maple syrup, sticky honey. It is quite fragrant and rich.

Palate: The palate is ladened with caramelised burnt sugar, nutmeg, nectarine or citrus, there are oranges and dry, peppery spices. There is a hint of smoke.

Finish: The finish is long and there is a level of soot and smoke

Rating: 91/100 

Benriach "The Smoky Ten" 10yo (46% ABV, 10 Year Old, Speyside, ScotlandA$95) 

Nose: The nose has apple, peat smoke, golden maple syrup covered pancake, pineapple, crumpet, honey. It is also quite creamy on the nose.

Palate: The palate follows the nose, it is creamy, viscous and smooth. There is sweet honey and the smoke is now weaning though it is still pleasant. There is caramel and some ginger spice.

Finish: The finish is long, there is the smoky campfire

Rating: 91/100 

Benriach "The Twelve" Triple Cask (46% ABV, 12 Year Old, Speyside, Scotland, A$97) 

Nose: The nose is filled with forest fruit, oak spices. It's peppery though balanced with some sweetness from raspberries and wild berries

Palate: The palate is rich, mouth-coating followed by some citrus and a mix of spiced elements; pepper, nutmeg, cherries

Finish: The finish is dry with some spices that remain

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Smoky Twelve" (46% ABV, 12 Year Old, Speyside, Scotland, $TBC - available post Christmas 2021) 

Nose: The nose is filled with apple, vanilla waffles followed by a subtle bonfire smoke and cherries

Palate: The palate is creamy, viscous, round and mouthful. It's a very rich mouthfeel, almost like tasting chocolate. There is moreish smoke, some cocoa and burnt orange

Finish: The smoke gently disappears into pepper and spices

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Twenty One" (46% ABV, 21-Year-Old, Speyside, Scotland$TBC - available in 2022) 

At twenty-one years old, Benriach takes on an elegant character, elevated by long maturation, four cask types and a combination of Benriach's unpeated and peated styles. The characters of aged bourbon, sherry, virgin oak and red wine casks intertwine to present a range of flavours.

Nose: The nose is filled with sour citrus, some fresh pine forest. Then there are gummi bear lollies, fruit, and berry fruits

Palate: There is more of those berries, citrus notes, some cocoa, peppery spice and rose water. The palate has a subtle smoke

Finish: There is a subtle smoke that remains

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Twenty Five" (46% ABV, 25-Year-Old, Speyside, Scotland$TBC - available in 2022) 

A rich single malt, interwoven with mellow smoke and curation of oak. After twenty-five years, it is then enhanced by four cask maturation in sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and Madeira wine casks. An appealing dram for sherry lovers

Nose: smoked apricot, dark cherry chocolate, hazelnut toffee and a mixture of dark fruits, raisins and currants. 

Palate: baked fruit, toasted oak spice, orange and cinnamon spice, finishing with rich caramelised smoke. The peppery spice builds up from then on.

Finish: Long, oaky, the cinnamon and spices continue to linger for some time

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Thirty" (46% ABV, 30-Year-Old, Speyside, Scotland$TBC - available in 2022) 

The final malt in the premium portfolio. This expression continues the four cask maturation tradition in sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and port casks. The final product offers a deep aromatic complexity in flavour. 

Nose: The nose is buttery, filled with vanilla, honey, citrus and dark fruits; plum, figs and raisins. Cinnamon doughnut anyone? There is nuttiness that follows with subtle smoke.

Palate: The buttery, honey prevails, so too is the cinnamon doughnut. There are more raisin notes, followed by orange, citrus that followed. Some intense spices start to build at the end.

Finish: The finish is subtle, long and sweet and leaves an oaky, smoke that remains for a while.

Rating: 93/100


Thanks to Brown Forman for providing us with samples from the new portfolio.

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