Water of Life - Benriach
Benriach has always intrigued me as from a distance, it proved to be difficult to discern and put one’s finger on what the DNA of their emissions was, given the assortment of ages, cask types and finishes. The fact that they differentiated whiskies with the same age statement and released them in smoky and non-smoky variants, i.e. peated and non-peated, only added to the mystique and confusion for some.
It was not until very recently that I got to sample their core range expressions, starting with the Benriach Original Ten.
Clocking in at 43% ABV, the decade long maturation period was spent in barrels such diverse as has ex-Bourbon barrels, Sherry and virgin oak, resulting in an amber coloured drop.
What tickles the nostrils is a fresh melange of apricots, lime and apples, resting on a woody backbone, the latter of which reverberated on the top of the mouth, complimented by honeyed vanilla, raisins and lemony nuances, which seamlessly transition into a finish highlighted by tangy ginger, menthol and biscuit flavours.
Benriach’s The Twelve differs from the Ten in terms of oiliness, to which the two additional years of maturation would have contributed. With a slightly higher alcohol content, I found the mouthfeel to be more textured in a buttery kind of way. Interesting.
Being a peat head, I was excited to see how the Benriach Smoky Ten would differentiate and I found it to be an enhanced version in every aspect, starting with the slightly higher ABV of 46%.
On the nose, the peat is on the sweeter, earthier end of the spectrum, framed by spicy malt notes, dried oranges and a nice appearance of cinnamon.
What materializes on the palate is at times reminiscent of the excellent Ailsa Bay, i.e. sweet earthy smoke with a nice saline twist and brown sugar.
Enter this highlight of the quartet I was able to sample: Benriach’s The Smoky Twelve. Now we are talking as the aroma of BBQ, hops and brown sugar give a pretty accurate idea of what will materialize on the palate in terms of smoky meat and sweet malts.
Summa summarum: The not overly complex core range of Benriach is comprised of solid and affordable offerings, which both in terms of flavours as well as price would lend themselves well for the uninitiated. The fact that the drops are matured in the same combination of casks, gives all of them a common denominator.
With the 12-Year-Old expressions, things get more subtle, textured and refined, and specifically the Smoky variant would be a contestant to enter my rotation.
image from company website