Earlier this month, I reviewed BenRiach's The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten single malt scotches. They both received Bottle ratings from me, and of the two, I preferred The Original Ten.
Today I'm exploring The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve. Similar to the ten-year expressions, these are not simply sisters with one unpeated and the other peated. They're both non-chill filtered and both naturally colored. They're both bottled at 46% ABV (92°).
The BenRiach does things differently than most Speyside distilleries. It tends to follow a more classic Highland region attributes of peated, light-bodied, and maltier. Guided by Master Blender Rachel Barrie, The BenRiach touts itself as "unconventionally Speyside."
Just as with the 10-year whiskies, I'll do a side-by-side comparison with the 12-years. Before I do, I'd like to thank The BenRiach for providing me these samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let's #DrinkCurious and learn more.
The Twelve is triple-cask matured, using former Bourbon, sherry, and Port casks. It is distilled from 100% unpeated malted barley. A 750ml bottle will set you back $49.99.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, The Twelve presented as the color of brass. It formed a medium rim that led to thick, wavy legs that fell back into the pool. It left sticky droplets on the rim.
Nose: Aromas of honey, candied orange, and (good) fruitcake provided a rather simple nosing experience. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, malt rolled over my tongue.
Palate: I found the mouthfeel to be creamy with a medium body. On the front, I tasted black cherry, vanilla, and honey. As the liquid moved to the middle, cocoa, malt, and coffee were easy to discern. Then, the back consisted of oak, spiced fruitcake, and ginger.
Finish: Ginger continued into the medium-length finish. The black cherry and oak returned, and the three were joined with mocha.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I found The Twelve to be tasty, but when I compare it to The Original Ten, it lacked much of the same big fruity notes. Granted, the casks were different, both used the same Bourbon and sherry casks, but The Twelve used Port for the third cask whereas The Original Ten used virgin oak. There's only a $5.00 difference between the two. I enjoyed this enough to convey a Bottle rating, but between the two, I'd choose The Original Ten.
The Smoky Twelve
The Smoky Twelve is also triple-cask matured, recycling Bourbon, sherry, and marsala casks. Incidentally, this was Whisky Advocate's #3-best whisky of 2020. You can expect to pay around $64.99 for a 750ml.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, The Smoky Twelve featured a dull gold color. It formed a medium rim which generated husky, slow legs that crawled back to the pool. It also left sticky, thick droplets on the wall.
Nose: Fennel and an herbal astringent quality nearly overwhelmed the smoky peat. I was able to pick out apricot and plum beneath those dominating aromas. When I brought the bouquet in my mouth, cherry gave me some respite.
Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy with a medium-weight body. The front offered vanilla cream and molasses. I discovered orange and dark chocolate at the middle, and then, on the back, things got spicy with black pepper and smoked oak.
Finish: Medium-long in length, peat and char had a definitive presence which was rounded out by sweet tobacco leaf and black pepper.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I was not a fan of the nose. I'm not big on herbal notes or astringent qualities. Thankfully, none of that carried into the palate or finish, and I loved those. Sans the nose, this was a very enjoyable pour. I can certainly understand why this one is popular. Despite the nose, it would be a mistake for me not to confer a Bottle rating for it. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It