Founded in 1898 by John Duff, the initial run for BenRiach was very short-lived - only two years. Then, it was shuttered due to the Pattison Crash. If you've not heard of it, the short story is it took out many distilleries. The longer story is it was caused by independent bottlers gaming the system, so much so that when the most prominent firm, Pattison, Edler & Company, went under, it took out nearly a dozen others, leading to the bankruptcies of the distilleries. It was not a good time to be in the whiskey business.
It was then reopened in 1965 by The Glenlivet. During that 65-year hiatus, the building was never torn down because the distillery next door, Longmorn, used BenRiach's malting floor and some other equipment while it was mothballed. Then, Seagrams purchased The Glenlivet in 1978, which Pernod-Ricard acquired in 2001.
The distillery was shuttered again from 2002 to 2004 before being purchased by Brown-Forman, its current owner. Its Master Blender, Dr. Rachel Barrie, runs things "unconventionally Speyside."
The Sixteen Single Malt was originally part of the brand’s core line-up but was discontinued in 2016. That left a sizeable hole between the 12-year and 21-year expressions. While a decision was made to revive the name, The BenRiach opted to change the makeup of the whisky.
“The return of Benriach The Sixteen is a very special moment for the distillery as it is one of our most treasured expressions. Our signature Speyside style blossoms at 10 years old, finding depth and richer layers of orchard fruit character as it turns 16. Our core flavor components of fruit, malt, and oak become more concentrated, enriched with age at 16 years old, bringing layers of stone fruit, smooth creamy malt, wild honey, and nutty oak spice.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie
This single malt Scotch rested at least sixteen years in three cooperage types: former Bourbon, sherry, and virgin oak. It is packaged at 43% ABV (86°), and you pay about $115.00 for a 750ml. Distribution in the United States began in February 2023.
Before I get to my tasting notes, I must thank BenRiach for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s dive deep and #DrinkCurious.
Appearance: I drank this Scotch neat from my Glencairn glass. It presented as a brilliant bronze liquid. As it created a thick rim, it released equally ponderous tears that fell back into the pool.
Nose: A malty, fruity bouquet smelled of apples, pears, dried apricots, raisins, and peaches. Inhaling that vapor through my lips made the apples stand out.
Palate: As I honed in on the buttery texture, I was distracted by the spiciness attributed to the virgin oak casks. It was a combination of spiced cinnamon nuts, clove, and oak on the front of my palate. Midway through, it got fruity with apples, apricots, and plums. The back featured honey, vanilla, and raisin.
Finish: The spice was long and lingering but not overwhelming. The apricot and honey notes kept trying to keep themselves on the stage.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The spicy-to-fruity transition was an attention-getter. The low-proof turned out well while delivering a light sizzle to my hard palate. Flavors were easy to identify, and transitions seemed natural. Dr. Barrie accomplished her goal of being unconventionally Speyside; it didn’t seem like any other Speyside I’ve tried. I enjoyed this Scotch so much that I plowed through my sample, which I rarely do. There’s no rating but a Bottle to consider. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.