Benriach 21yo & Authenticus 30yo

Benriach Distillery

Not content with releasing a bunch of single cask whiskies every other month (or so it seems), BenRiach have released two new expressions; a 21 year old matured in four, yes four, different types of cask, and a peated 30 year old. Safe to say, today is a good day.

Firstly, to the 21 year old. The final liquid is crafted from whisky matured either in ex-bourbon barrels, virgin oak, pedro ximinez sherry casks or red wine casks, which is then blended together by BenRiach’s master blender, Rachel Barrie. Commenting on this new release, Barrie said: “At BenRiach we have developed a reputation for innovative maturation using an eclectic mix of cask types. BenRiach 21 year old is the next step on this innovative journey, bringing together four eclectic casks in one single malt: bourbon barrels at its core enriched by virgin American oak, Pedro Ximenez and red wine casks. This new unpeated expression is likely to both surprise and delight.”

I am ready to be surprised and delighted.

Benriach 21yo
Four Cask Matured
Non chill-filtered
46% ABV
£125 here

Nose: Loads of vanilla, icing sugar and delicate estery notes. Orange blossom, baked apple, fresh laundry, cherry lips sweets, blackcurrant cordial and gentle oak.

Palate: Ginger, lime, and lemon sherbet to begin. Then floral notes, love heart sweets, and slightly grassy notes. Some creamy vanilla and a touch of dry oak. Pleasant, but not as complex as I thought it’d be.

Finish: Short, with an estery sweetness, some zest ginger and sweet oak.

So, to the 30 year old. BenRiach have led the way in smoky Speyside whisky for some time now, with peated spirit first being distilled on the site in the 1970s. Indeed, BenRiach have casks of peated whisky dating back to 1975 in their current inventory. The peat used at the distillery (they have retained their own floor maltings) is akin to that used at other Highland and Speyside distilleries, with it being cut from the mainland of Scotland. As such, it imparts sweet, aromatic, herbal smoky notes into the barley, rather than the phenolic, medicinal notes contributed by Islay peat. Think heather, bracken and exotic spice.

Commenting on the new 30yo, master blender Rachel Barrie said: “At the BenRiach Distillery we pride ourselves on our unconventional distilling philosophy, creating unpeated, peated and triple distilled malt whisky. As the oldest expression in our peated range, we believe Authenticus 30 years old will impress with its distinguished profile. It is a more intense Speyside malt which carries a delightful balance of wild honey and peat on the nose. The combination of the soft, creamy vanilla, summer fruits and slight hint of cocoa coax the palate, while the infused sweet peat builds gradually to complete the unique character.” Here goes.

Benriach Authenticus 30yo
Non chill-filtered
46% ABV
£400 here

Nose: Thick bonfire smoke straight off the bat, then smoked applewood, burnt sandalwood, maple syrup and bacon, whisky glazed ribs, and roasted chestnuts. Then the spices come through with cinnamon, clove studded ham along with a rich sweetness of figs, prunes and Terry’s dark chocolate orange.

Palate: Thick, almost oily smoke to begin, then singed heather and nettles. The sweeteness is there with red currants and dates before a savoury note emerges; pheasant, leather and clove, all dusted with toasted coconut.

Finish: Lingering smoke, austere oak and aromatic spices.

Overall: A tale of two halves. The 21yo noses and tastes much younger than 21, unfortunately, and the influence of anything other than the ex-bourbon casks is modest to indiscernible. Pleasant, don’t get me wrong, but I won’t be parting with £125 for it. The 30yo on the other hand, is full of flavour, balanced, complex, well integrated and quite delightful. The smoke sits up front, followed by rich sweetness and complimented with aromatic oaky notes. Very good indeed.

Happy New Year everyone!



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