Jun 092013
 

Benriach/BenRiach: The Little ‘r’ Big ‘R’ Tasting

On May 28, 2013, the Dram Initiative sat down to a range tasting featuring BenRiach whiskies.  The tasting was hosted by the ever engaging and knowledgeable, J Wheelock, of Authentic Wine & Spirit Merchants.  This was the second range tasting of the Dram Initiative, Calgary’s newest and most progressive avant-garde whisky club for whiskey swingers that are willing to experiment with all things whisky.

BenRiach, for the benefit of the great unwashed, means “The Hill of the Red Deer”.  The distillery is located near Elgin in the beautiful Spey Valley and was built in 1898 by John Duff.  Unfortunately, the distillery only produced whisky for two years before succumbing to the Patterson whisky crash of 1900, and was mothballed. However, the malting floors continued in operation and supplied the neighboring distillery, Longmorn, with malted barley.  In 1965, after the sale of the distillery to The Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd, the distillery was almost completely rebuilt and whisky production started up again.  The distillery was sold again in 1977 to Seagram and then again to Chivas in 2001, who almost immediately closed it in 2002.  In 2004, the distillery was sold to Billy Walker along with two other partners, Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter, who started up production again.

This tasting was designed to pick the top single cask from 1983 – 1986 Bourbon barrel/hogsheads, from the four currently available in the city of Calgary.  The second goal was to highlight the influences on the whisky from Sherry, Port and Madeira and lightly peated and heavily peated malted barley.  The third goal was to speculate on the need to capitalize the ‘R’ after one hundred and six years.  So, whilst we were drinking, enjoying and voting on our whisky, we came up with a top ten reasons why:

Top Ten Reasons For The Capital ‘R’ In BenRiach:

10)  ‘BR’ stands for two chess pieces, the Bishop and the Rook, in honor of Joseph Henry Blackburne, a brilliant British chess player who dominated the game during the latter part of the 19th century. He was nicknamed “The Black Death”, and occasionally became violent when he drank whisky (rumored to be Benriach) during his chess games.

9)  Inspired by Bruichladdich and their complete disregard for convention, BenRiach has capitalized the ‘R’ for Rad or Radical, to point out all the radical types of whiskies being served up by the Rad new owners for public enjoyment.

8)  ‘BR’ means …………. Best Regards. In trying to become a polite company, it was thought that this change could make BenRiach come across more cultured.

7)  Capital ‘R’ in front of a word makes it special, therefore if the distillery is special, it goes without saying that the people who make the whisky must be special too.

6)  Anything associated with the British Royalty helps sell (you can also charge more for it) ………….. So the thinking was to capitalize the ‘B’ & ‘R’ to stand for British Royal, thereby giving the name a sense of entitlement.

5)  ‘B’ and ‘R’ are the initials of the legendary baseball player Babe Ruth, a star home run hitter before the age of steroids for both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.  He was also the only player in history to credit his athletic prowess to a steady regimen of cigars, women and of course ……… whisky (rumored to be Benriach).

4)  The name was changed in honor of Billy Walker and his secret love for country music and in particular, a band called B&R, which are short for Big Kenny and John Rich.  In 2004, the same year in which Benriach was acquired, the band put out his all-time favorite song, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”.

3)  The capital ‘R’ was for Alistair Walker and his favorite book growing up which was ABC by Dr. Seuss.  His favorite part of the book was “BIG R little r” in which “a one Rosy Robin Ross was going riding on her red rhinoceros”.

2)  Major confusion between the Marketing and Finance departments with the mixed up thought, that by capitalizing the ‘R’ it would solve any potential problem for under-capitalization.

1)  The capital ‘R’ stands for “Resolution” which was made in 2004 by the owners, to stay out of the pub and not to buy another distillery. This resolution was broken in 2008 with the purchase Glendronach now the GlenDronach distillery, and Capital ‘D’ was for “Don’t do it again”.  This “Don’t do it again” was promptly broken, yet again, in 2013 with the acquisition of the Glenglassaugh distillery, soon to be the GlenGlassaugh distillery, with the Capital ‘G’ most likely standing for “God” as in “Oh God, I can’t believe they lent us the money to do it again”.

 

164

 

#1 AWS 1986 – August 2012 Cask # 5458 Bourbon Barrel 50.5 % ABV 217 Bottles

Single Cask Release Bottled by Authentic Wine & Spirit Merchants Alberta by J Wheelock.

Locally known as “Wheelock’s Wicked Whisky”.

NOSE:  Sweet ripe oranges & cherries, cinnamon, banana & apples. Raisins and some yeasty notes.

TASTE:  Creamy caramel sauce, green apples, liquorice.

FINISH:  Long and little tart at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  Nice all around dram, my second favorite of the tasting.

 

#2 CWS 1985 – September 2012 Cask # 531 Bourbon Barrel 49.9 % ABV 189 Bottles

Single Cask Release Bottled for Co-op Wines Spirits, Alberta.

NOSE:  Smoke and leather. Some floral notes and apricots jam. Like an old Armagnac.

TASTE:  Light smoke and tobacco. Nutty, sour oranges and lots of black liquorice.

FINISH:  Long and warm.

ASSESSMENT:  Odd to get that much smoke from a non-peated whisky, must come from the floor malting somehow.

 

#3 CSN 1984 – August 2012 Cask # 1114 Hogshead 56.1 % ABV 198 Bottles

Single Cask Release Bottled for CSN Wine & Spirits, Calgary, Alberta.

NOSE:  Ripe sweet honeydew melon, creamy vanilla, flora and waxy.

TASTE:  Butterscotch overload, spices, pears, raisins and almonds.

FINISH:  Long with some nutty liquorice right at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  Interesting, lovely balanced dram.

 

#4 KWM 1983 – September 2012 Cask # 298 Hogshead 44.2 % ABV 233 Bottles

Single Cask Release Bottled For Kensington Wine Market, Calgary, Alberta.

NOSE:  Pineapple expresses, ripe melons, maple syrup. Five alive fruit salad.

TASTE:  Creamy caramel, coconut milk, sweet ripe fruits.

FINISH:  Medium to long, caramel finish.

ASSESSMENT:  This is a tropical shit storm of fruit. If you like a fruity dram, this is the one for you.

 

BATTLE OF THE STORE CASKS

After tasting the first four drams blind, the Dram Initiative club members voted by a show of unwashed hands, which showed their inclination in the following order:

Win           Kensington Wine Market 1983 cask # 298

Place         Centre Street North 1984 cask # 1114

Show        Authentic Wine & Spirits 1986 cask # 5458

4th             Co-op Wines Spirits 1985 cask # 531

 

#5 KWM 1994 – September 2009 Cask #4810 Madeira Finish Hogshead 57.1 % ABV 250 Bottles

Single Cask Release Bottled For Kensington Wine Market, Calgary, Alberta.

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 stewed fruits.

FINISH:  Long and spicy.

ASSESSMENT:  Many layers and much depth to this one.

 

#6 1977 – July 2010 Cask #1033 Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish Hogshead 52.2 % ABV 331 Bottles

2010 Annual Limited Release Batch 7.

NOSE:  Oranges and cherries. Caramel, rich coffee and cigar notes.

TASTE:  Major dill. Toffee, raisins, dark fruits and nutty.

FINISH:  Medium. Lingering and sweet.

ASSESSMENT:  Excellent sherry cask. Wow, this one really shows just how good a sherry finish BenRiach can be.

 

#7 1975 – August 2007 Cask #4451 Lightly Peated Port Pipe 53.7 % ABV 707 Bottles

2007 Annual Limited Release Batch 4.

NOSE:  Smokey coke & rum. Citrus and sweet cherries with a little pineapple.

TASTE:  Thick overpowering clove sweet, spices and oily liquorice.

FINISH:  Medium and fades fast.

ASSESSMENT:  You really need to love rum to like this one.

 

#8 1984 – July 2010 Cask #4052 Tawny Port Finish Peated Hogshead 51.7 % ABV 265 Bottles

2010 Annual Limited Release Batch 7.

NOSE:  Assertive smoke, but pleasant. Stewed fruits and cream.

TASTE:  Minty smoke & pepper. Oranges, a little floral and some coffee notes.

FINISH:  Long and a bit drying.

ASSESSMENT:  I like this one the more I drink it.

 

Thanks to J Wheelock for hosting the Dramned.  You complete us.

Congratulations to BenRiach for starting up the malting floors again, (sorry to the next generations of hunchbacks) we know it’s expensive, but whisky drinkers do take notice and appreciate the effort.

What’s next for the owners of Benriach?  Well, according to the rules of distillery monopoly, if they buy one more distillery, they can start building a new larger mega distillery!

 

– Your humble Drudge, Maltmonster

 Posted by at 8:53 am

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