BenRiach Range Tasting
What is a BFB?
Well…it’s an overnight whisky event for couples only. Usually half the couples drink whisky and the other half drink some other less satisfying alcoholic beverage. We tolerate the non-whisky drinkers only because we can hijack the evening for our purposes and have a completely guilt free whisky tasting with GOOD friends (a friend is someone who will help you move…a GOOD friend is someone who will help you move a dead body). The only problem is, sometimes the conversation gets side tracked away from whisky, but a slight pause in the discussion and a really loud voice can usually rail a derailed conversation back to whisky, after all, if it’s not about whisky & cigars, is it really worth talking about? BFB stands for ‘Bed for Breakfast’, which means whoever hosts the event supplies the beds and whoever doesn’t supply the beds, has to prepare breakfast. We have hosted many of these events in the past and are always surprised at what great cooks whisky drinkers are, especially when whisky is one of the ingredients!
BenRiach, for the benefit of the great unwashed, means “The Hill of the Red Deer”. The distillery is located in the beautiful Spey Valley and was created in 1898. Unfortunately, it only produced whisky for two years before succumbing to a whisky crash and was mothballed (sounds a little like Diageo corporate planning). However, the malting floors continued to be operated and supplied the neighboring distillery, Longmorn, with malted barley from which they produced a product called Longben or long-been which has long been making Longmorn better. In 1965, after a sale, the distillery was almost completely rebuilt and whisky production started up again. In 1972 peat was added to the drying of the barley to satisfy the smoky blends at the time and screw over the peat workers union on Islay. 1999 was the end of the floor malting operations at BenRiach which have helped to shape the shoulders of many a hunchback for last 101 years. In 2002, the distillery was again mothballed until 2004, when it was resold to the current ownership and production started again.
In 2010, Alistair Walker came to Calgary and after a grand tasting (and before passing out) he made a bold offer to us all to come to BenRiach for a visit and try a sample from one of the two remaining 1966 casks. In 2011, a small group of VIP’s from Calgary showed up to be drammed with 1966 only to be denied by a kind, but stern, gatekeeper and Distillery Manager, Mad Max Stewart Buchannan. The day was saved when a compromise was made and it was agreed that we could try everything else. We started by trying over 30 samples (I kid you not) in an effort to choose another cask for the KWM. We were then treated to the ‘soon to be released’ Batch 8, 2011 Limited Releases ….. I don’t remember much after that.
This Benriach Range tasting was designed to highlight the different influences from Bourbon, Sherry, Port and Madeira and to also try some lightly peated to heavily peated non-Islay whiskies, but more importantly, it was about good friends and great whisky!
BENRIACH RANGE TASTING :
#1 1971 - April , 2011 Cask #1947 Hogshead 49.8 % ABV Bottle #47 of 229
#2 1972 - July , 2011 Cask #802 Hogshead 40.1 % ABV Bottle #147 of 169
#3 1978 - June , 2006 Cask #1596 Hogshead 54.0 % ABV Bottle #83 of 201
#4 1994 - Sept , 2009 Cask #4810 Madeira Finish 57.1 % ABV Bottle #153 of 250 for KWM
#5 1977 - July , 2010 Cask #1033 Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish 52.2 % ABV Bottle #185 of 331
#6 1975 - August , 2007 Cask #4451 Port Pipe 53.7 Bottle #479 of 707
#7 1984 - July , 2010 Cask #4052 Tawny Port Finish – Peated 51.7 % ABV Bottle #116 of 265
#8 15 Year old - Solstice Heavily Peated & Finished in Tawny Port Pipes 50 % ABV
#1 1971 - April , 2011 Cask # 1947 Hogshead 49.8 % ABV Bottle # 47 of 229
NOSE: Tons-O-Fruit. Watermelon, oranges, pineapple, it just keeps going. Eucalyptus. Refreshing.
TASTE: More fruit, but more tropical. Milk chocolate. Fresh bourbon vanilla. Bit of tannins.
FINISH: Medium. Very dry.
ASSESSMENT: Benriach 1971 you are my fire , the one desire believe when I say I want it that way and by the gallon ( 4 liter ) size .
Group rated #1 whisky for the night with the most number one votes .
#2 1972 - July , 2011 Cask # 802 Hogshead 40.1 % ABV Bottle # 147 of 169
NOSE: Oranges, pears and melons. Marshmallow sweet. Almonds. Stunning.
TASTE: Very floral. Creamy vanilla bean. Caramel milk chocolate and fruits again.
FINISH: Medium and a little more. Bit drying
ASSESSMENT: This whisky has it, yeah baby, it’s got it, BenRiach I’m your fan, I’m your devotee, at your desire.
Group rated #2 whisky tasted .
#3 1978 - June , 2006 Cask # 1596 Hogshead 54.0 % ABV Bottle # 83 of 201
NOSE: The sugar train stops here, uber sweet. Pears and apricots.
TASTE: Coffee. Dark chocolate. Trace of peat smoke.
FINISH: Medium to long. Nice and warming. Almost bitter.
ASSESSMENT: It’s such a good vibration, it’s such a sweet sensation.
Group rated #4 whisky tasted
#4 1994 - Sept , 2009 Cask # 4810 Madeira Finish 57.1 % ABV Bottle # 153 of 250 Bottled for KWM
NOSE: Sweet fruit syrupy, almost like a liqueur. Burnt sugar with vanilla bean.
TASTE: Sugar & spice and all things nice. Black licorice that coats the tongue and deep stewed fruits.
FINISH: Long and spicy.
ASSESSMENT: Just tasting this step by step, ooh baby, gonna get to you whisky, step by step. Many layers and much depth to this one.
Group rated #3 whisky tasted (I rated this #4 , only because the potentate at KWM didn’t go with my choice of sample when choosing the cask and I happen to be very petty).
#5 1977 - July , 2010 Cask # 1033 Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish 52.2 % ABV Bottle # 185 of 331
NOSE: Oranges and cherries. Rich coffee and cigar notes.
TASTE: Major dill. Toffee, raisins, dark fruits and nutty.
FINISH: Medium. Lingering and sweet.
ASSESSMENT: You’re all I ever wanted, you’re all I ever needed, yeah! Excellent sherry cask. Wow, this one really shows just how good a sherry finish BenRiach can be.
#6 1975 - August , 2007 Cask # 4451 Port Pipe 53.7 % ABV Bottle # 479 of 707
NOSE: Big citrus. Grapefruit, cherries and little smoke.
TASTE: At odds with the nose, very unbalanced. Pepper, thick overpowering clove sweet.
FINISH: Medium and fades fast (not fast enough).
ASSESSMENT: Ok, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want, I want balance in a whisky.
#7 1984 - July , 2010 Cask # 4052 Tawny Port Finish – Peated 51.7 % ABV Bottle # 116 of 265
NOSE: Stewed fruits. Assertive peat but pleasant. Some mint. Little musty.
TASTE: Peat & Pepper. Floral, honey and coffee.
FINISH: Long and a bit drying.
ASSESSMENT: Don’t go chasing finishes. Please stick to the basics and the barrels that you’re used to.
#8 15 Year old – Solstice Heavily Peated & Finished in Tawny Port Pipes 50 % ABV
NOSE: Bam…..cherry jam. Intense non-medicinal peat. Spicy aroma found only in a Bolivar cigar. Little farmy.
TASTE: Prevailing peat. Cloves, raisin and figs. Vanilla in the back.
FINISH: Long and chewy. Not your mother’s BenRiach. Balanced. Depends if like a Port Peat drink, then yes, if not don’t walk away, run away!
ASSESSMENT: With the world in love with peat, I know that it’s time for a change, but when that change comes will you still feel the same about Benriach.