BenRiach. One in a Chameleon?

Ok. I’m sorry. Promise I’ll do better with the titles of these things. Anyway we’ve more important things to discuss, let’s begin!

I was enjoying a week off work, and decided it was time to open my Christmas present. Well. Re-open it. It was wrapped up, I unwrapped it, now I wanted to open it. Never mind. As we can safely assume. It was a whisky. a BenRiach 12 year old Sherry wood (I don’t know why they have the big ‘R’ but it looks cool to me so it’s staying).

I kind of got a little too into this bottling I’ll be honest. It really should have lasted longer but it was like when you’re on such a great night out you don’t realise it until the lights come up at 5am and its time for a kebab and a taxi ride home.

It spoke to me, it was everything I wanted in a whisky and by the time I’d realised what I was enjoying it was already too late. Empty. So pining for my lost love I decided to look into BenRiach and what they do.

My lost love, until we meet again. . .

BenRiach is a Speysider. And after my last blog we can sort of see that I’ve decided the region has got more to offer that just a chicken korma. It has a peated, a non-peated, a sherry wood, a bourbon wood, a cask strength, non-age statement whisky and then there’s its limited runs of special bottings like its port pipe matured stuff (more on that story later, it’s in the queue for being reviewed, watch this space).

BenRiach itself to me is a chameleon of a distillery. Certainly from the outside looking in anyway. But just because it produces all these varying styles and finishes, it doesn’t mean they’re any good. I mean look at Jura, they’ve faffed about with seven different wood finishes for one of their their “re-launched” bottlings and the stuff to me just tastes over worked and under matured. One good cask is worth much more than seven weak ones.

So has Benriach fallen into this trap too? Well as you can imagine I do not have a Hollywood budget for these reviews, but I did manage to get hold of a bottle of the BenRiach Curiositas 10 Peated and a sample of the classic 10 year old, as well as the 12 year old sherry wood bottle for Christmas. And wouldn’t you know it I’ve done a comparison for your interest!

A Peated Speyside; what madness is this!?!

But first of course like I’ve said. Mood and location can really help a malt either sink or swim. Sat in the spare room, watching ralfydotcom on YouTube interspersed with some Whisk(e)y Vault and Aqvavitae for good measure. Shall we begin?

BenRiach 10.  So this is a blend of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. On first impression im getting a woody sweetness; like a syrup coated oak shelf? is that a thing? Guess it is now. Bit of the sherry influence coming through but only in the guise of maybe some soaked raisins, nothing major, the bourbon barrels are trying to win this battle. There is a spiced sort of note on the end, more pepper than spice though, maybe that’s the bourbon and sherry fighting again. Seeing this is the core representation of BenRiach, its got a sturdy character, maybe that’s why the distillate could potentially hold itself up to different barrels and finishes?

BenRiach 12 Sherry Wood. When I say wood. I mean 3 woods. It’s a full sherry cask maturation but then its combined with Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry cask finishing too according to my burgundy cardboard tube. So I guess we’re expecting sherry then? Lots of sherry indeed! Rich fruity but not too heavy it isn’t a sherry monster by any stretch of the imagination. Kind of a Christmas pudding light/diet/zero/max. It’s not an after dinner whisky its still got just enough going on in the distillate to fight off the advances of being overwhelmed by the sherry, sherry and sherry.

BenRiach 10 Curiositas Peated. It’s peat Jim but not as we know it. Look there’s no getting away from the peat. it is most definitely there. But it’s a very clean peat, sweet peat, its light and almost floral in its way. Certainly a far cry from the aggression of a Laphroaig and the oilyness of a Lagavulin. It reminds me a little of Robert Grahams own Hoebeg peated whisky. The peak reek is there but it comes in and goes down easy. Good effort.

So. Three very different costumes for BenRiach there. But I have to admit. all very good in different ways. You can’t do this with some whiskies they’ll just become carriers of barrel flavour and lose their own spirit identity. But BenRiach is very much a feisty new make by the tastes of it. It’ll take on all-comers, and win.

For Drinkers. For Thinkers. For Fun.

All views are my own.

BenRiach 12 Sherry wood purchased at The Whisky Shop Dufftown.

BenRiach 10 Curiositas Peated purchased at Royal Mile Whiskies Edinburgh

BenRiach 10 Classic sample purchased from Master of Malt

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