New Whiskies

Batch 116: BenRiach Single Casks

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BenRiach single casks 2017 batch 14

Dave Broom heads to the heart of Speyside to discover seven new releases from Morayshire’s BenRiach distillery. The 14th batch of BenRiach’s single cask single malts includes whiskies aged from nine to 12 years old, all produced during a three-year period shortly after the distillery was reopened by former owner Billy Walker in 2003.

Now operating under the Kentucky-based ownership of Brown-Forman, BenRiach’s latest batch release accounts for 3,578 bottles in total, with cask bottlings matured in virgin oak (distilled in 2006) and first-fill Sherry (2005), plus five peated expressions matured in a first-fill Marsala hogshead (2008), first-fill Sherry butts (both 2007) and first-fill Port pipes (2005 and 2008).

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 10 Years Old (2006), Virgin Oak Cask #7360

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 10 Years Old (2006), Virgin Oak Cask #7360
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Immediate wood-derived aromas, plus a scented element akin to bay rum, and maraschino (which itself is closer to the mentholic hit of cherry Tunes/Benylin cough syrup). The oak moves into a freshly-felled tree, sawmill, and wet moss followed by a prickle of bergamot and powdered rose. It really needs water and, when diluted, out comes a strange amalgam of Mozart liqueur and eucalyptus, plus more of that pine tree (which is now at the sawmill). As it develops, so does the oak, along with some citrus and banana. But really it’s all about the oak. 

    Palate

    Thick in texture with vanilla extract, mace and cinnamon. It’s a powerful beast with some tannic grip. The distillery’s fruits come over as fried banana and cling peaches. Inevitably your mind drifts towards Bourbon. When the water is added, there’s more of the fairground: candy floss, toffee apple, and warm cinnamon toast and a final hit of pineapple but, again, it’s oak-driven.

    Finish

    Lightly honeyed, then a green sappiness and more wood.

    Conclusion

    Bold and assertive, and will have its fans.

    Right place, right time

    A beaver’s wet dream. Bring them back to Scotland! Donate to the Trees For Life campaign here.

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 12 Years Old (2005), Sherry Cask #2565

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 12 Years Old (2005), Sherry Cask #2565
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    There’s a surprising but fuzzily heart-warming opening of melting butter on hot crumpets, then come green and ripened banana, light sultana and punchy, peachy fruits. It grows richer, adding layers of coffee and liquorice. The Sherried elements are raised when it’s diluted, taking the aroma into that slightly sweaty, new pigskin leather area, some grilled nut, then more classical raisin – although there’s also a scattering of pine nut. Develops into a rich, mellow dram.

    Palate

    Big and sweet, with that buttery quality to start. The fruits break through early with apricots joining the peaches, and almonds and pistachios soaked in honey (baklava). Kumquat and neroli add a citric lift, and accentuate the BenRiach character. Thick and ripe, even with water, with powdery tannins, then some strawberry. It sweetens in development, and the bright summery fruits take on a darker hue as it opens and lengthens.

    Finish

    Slightly tight, and the Sherry starts to dominate. Has length though. 

    Conclusion

    Big, balanced and rather delicious.

    Right place, right time

    A psychedelic journey in Anatolia.

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 9 Years Old (2008), Peated/Marsala Cask #7880

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 9 Years Old (2008), Peated/Marsala Cask #7880
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Dense, with cooked fruits. The liquorice seen earlier makes a reappearance, while the smoke is noticeable but not dominating – it’s now got the aroma of a garden bonfire. There are touches of a sunlit, but dusty, attic and then richer black fruits begin to push forward. It gets darker without ever losing its balance. Danish liquorice and earthiness, a faint hint of rosewood and, in time, frankincense. Water closes it down a little, though the aroma of hot tiles emerges and, as it develops, the fruits return. 

    Palate

    The woodsmoke is subtle, but inveigles its way into every part of the mouth, adding another element to the rich and sweet (but not cloying) body. As it moves, you get those black fruits, some treacle, wood ash and a burnt quality which you can pick up from good Marsala casks. It also helps to give a drier edge and stop things getting too flabby. Water produces violet-flavoured chocolate, and iris. Complex. 

    Finish

    A meaty tinge.

    Conclusion

    This is a great match and bottled at precisely the right time.

    Right place, right time

    Stumbling through the darkened grove to the black water lake, we enter the mysterious world of the moine dubh.

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 9 Years Old (2008), Peated/Port Cask #2047

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 9 Years Old (2008), Peated/Port Cask #2047
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    63.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Opens with scented rosehip syrup and Turkish Delight, with woodsmoke behind. It’s the rosy, floral edge which leads, given support (and balance) by a mix of smoky draff and malt bin. The fruits are there, less pulpy than in the previous examples; now it’s the turn of red apple and smoked pumpkin. While it is slightly vinous when neat, water brings out more of the campfire aromas and this peaty element starts to take centre stage. As it develops, the smoke seems to separate itself slightly. 

    Palate

    A dry and smoky start with raspberry and pomegranate. Alcohol-derived heat adds a chilli-like bite. The smoke is bold and the effect, initially at least, is slightly blunt. Water makes it sweeter, with better concentration and the characteristic peach (and now mango) begin to mingle with the red fruits. Quite unctuous.

    Finish

    The Port and the fruit come together, with a slightly tarry/rubbery edge and a whiff of sulphur (though not off-puttingly so).

    Conclusion

    A bold and juicy cask for peat lovers.

    Right place, right time

    Late-night tales around a summer campfire.

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 12 Years Old (2005), Peated/Port Cask #2679

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 12 Years Old (2005), Peated/Port Cask #2679
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    There’s more smoke here – now we have a blazing fire – which makes things seemingly drier on first nosing. This example, however, has a fruitier and fresher edge: red cherries, lingonberry and that pomegranate. This adds drive, and a touch of sweetness, behind which is smoke, and some sweet wood ash. It needs a little time to settle. Watering shows black grape, then a new sooty element and some charred herbs. Polished.

    Palate

    Medium-weight and quite sweet. Once again there’s some rosehip syrup, but this is now accompanied by hawthorn and rowan berry jelly, while the smoke kicks in from the mid-palate onwards. This mix of sweetness, acidity, smoke and a light grip of tannin gives great balance and complexity. Water accentuates its supple nature and pulls out rose petal and raspberry.

    Finish

    Smoky and long.

    Conclusion

    The key here is integration and balance. The cask is supporting, not dominating, the peat playing an accompanying role. 

    Right place, right time

    Flames in an orchard.

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 10 Years Old (2007), Peated/Sherry Cask #101

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 10 Years Old (2007), Peated/Sherry Cask #101
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    61.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Huge colour and, not unsurprisingly, this is Sherry-led rather than oak-led: sweet oloroso with a slight leathery element in the back. The smoke is there alongside black cherry, some orchard fruits and then chicory/acorn and just a tiny hint of sulphur (again, not obtrusive). The meatiness seen on the Marsala is now raw meat (a freshly-skinned rabbit springs to mind for some reason), along with bay leaf and smouldering wood. Water pulls out a slight hardness, while a rubbery thing develops over time (though again it’s in the background).

    Palate

    As the nose suggests, this is bold and cask-driven, but importantly the BenRiach sweetness is retained at its core. The flavours become more scented, with added incense, but the distillate holds on (just), resisting the grip of a pretty forceful cask. Water adds some sun-dried peppers and, as it develops, the tannins ratchet up the pressure.

    Finish

    Long, ripe, with some barbecued pineapple, paprika-seasoned meat. Smoke.

    Conclusion

    A powerful personality, but for me this is a bit of a battle – and it’s ‘only’ 10 years old.

    Right place, right time

    Comes at you with promises, then whisks them away. It’s the Undisputed Truth.

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 10 Years Old (2007), Peated/Sherry Cask #105

    BenRiach Single Cask Batch 14, 10 Years Old (2007), Peated/Sherry Cask #105
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    62.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Lighter in terms of smoke and cask influence. There’s more of the cigar box and wispy smoke from a fine puro cigar. The oak gives balance, but allows secondary aromas to develop: treacle toffee, dried mint and, with water, briar fruits, a herbal element and fir branches put onto the fire. As it develops, you get light raisin and chocolate underneath. It has weight and some grunt, but is restrained at the same time.

    Palate

    Expressive and more subtle and layered than #101, this is for those who like their Sherry casks to give support, rather than being the main feature. This then allows BenRiach’s more aromatic side to come forward and be tweaked into new shapes. There’re roses once more, along with light leather, smoke, some myrrh and clove – and surprisingly a touch of pear drops as it develops. Water shows great balance as the wood moves towards sandalwood. It retains its sweetness and supple tannins.

    Finish

    Long, then menthol and camphor.

    Conclusion

    The same type of cask, filled with the same spirit – and you’d imagine at the same time as #101 – yet so different. It seems to combine the positive elements of everything which has gone before. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    A contemplative cigar at the end of a long day’s tasting.

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