BenRiach – death by peat

BenRiach

BenRiach has been my great guilt for years. I feel we’ve not covered the brand enough, we haven’t reviewed enough expressions and generally we’ve not been there for the independent distiller. Non bon. They clearly must have taken a grudge, when I asked for some samples a few weeks back they swiftly sent me two heavily peated expressions and but a couple of weeks later they followed up with… another two peated whiskies. Clearly they have sentenced me to death by peat, a fitting revenge no doubt. Little did they know that I have complete immunity to phenol toxicity. In fact, I thrive on it. So instead of punishing me they made me happy as the proverbial pig in the mud. Ha! Next time hire a ninja, BenRiach!

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BenRiach Birnie Moss

48% ABV
£28.30 from MoM

Nose: Ashy, slightly tobacco-like smokiness, freshly mown grass, herbs, lively citrus. Water brings out more tobacco and introduces lavender/floral fragrance. Medium intensity.

Palate: The taste is fairly ashy again. Sweet with a hint of green apples. Easy.

Finish: The oak influence manifests itself clearly on the finish with bitter sweet intense burst.

Overall: Didn’t have me on my knees but it’s definitely a well made heavily peated dram that displays a lot of what I’m after these days – clean and bright character, good intensity and sweetness. Can’t argue with the price to quality ratio.

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BenRiach 17yo Septendecim

46% ABV
£46.75 from TWE

Nose: Fruit gums galore, green banana, orange, candy floss and rich honey. The smoke is subdued, warm and woody; doesn’t get in the way of sweetness and fruitiness. Intense, balanced and just splendid.

Palate: Fruit and spice. Ginger, cordamom and red apple core. A hint of that lavender thing I smelled in Birnie Moss. Quite different from the nose, playful.

Finish: This is where the smoke comes to the fore in its warming bread-oven glory. Also a weedy/grassy theme here, especially with water.

Overall: Cracking. Great intensity, maturity and balance. Depth and breadth of both aroma and flavour, the nuances are not obscured by the phenols but the smoke is with you every step of the way. One of the best drams of my year so far and the price tag means I will be getting my hands on a full bottle.

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BenRiach 17yo Solstice

Port finish
50% ABV
£57.95 from TWE

Nose: Earthy. Honey. Wet soil, pine bark, hints of praline and carrot cake. Red apples and more honey with water. Warm smoke, oaky and rustic.

Palate: Heavy and chewy with oranges, burned toast and apple seed oil.

Finish: Jammy and a little soapy.

Overall: I’ve never been a fan of port finishes and the second edition of Solstice from BenRiach only makes me more adamant. I think the cask finish gets in the way here, Septendecim is way better.

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BenRiach 25yo Authenticus

46% ABV
£124.95 from RMW

Nose: Fresh banana reigns supreme, closely followed by tinned pineapples, peaches and sweet apples. What a joy. A touch of lemon meringue and an old leather glove for good measure. Sweetness and great weight wrapped up in subtle smoke.

Palate: Aggressive from the entry, delivers a great burst of fruit and tannins, very tropical and slightly minty.

Finish: More apples, very sweet but also bitter at one point.

Overall: The 25yo Authenticus shows maturity and great complexity on the nose. A treat.

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So is the peaty stuff from BenRiach any good?

In a word – yes. I’m glad I made time to do this, revisiting peated BenRiachs had been long overdue. I am pleased to say that across the set the quality is really high, much higher than I remember from a few years back. The Birnie Moss offers a great alternative to entry level Islay malts, something a bit more summery. The Solstice will appeal to those of you who liked the first Quinta Ruban but it’s not for me. The 25yo Authenticus is great and the tropical fruit blew me away. I was a bit baffled at first by why it’s twice as expensive as the previous edition – BenRiach 21yo Authenticus – but in the course of tasting it I thought than perhaps the current price actually reflects the quality of the liquid quite well. It is really very good. But my winner tonight has to be the Septendecim. Such a depth and balance in that dram! The smoke kept in check yet prominent, the cask not obscuring anything, extremely drinkable. Tick, tick, tick, rave, rave, rave. I really recommend picking up a bottle.

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World Whiskies Awards Judge         Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards Judge Global Scotch Masters Judge         Scottish Whisky Awards Judge