Showing posts with label BenRiach. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BenRiach. Show all posts

Monday, November 8, 2021

The BenRiach Malting Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

One month each year, the folks at The BenRiach spread barley on its malting floor, watch it carefully while turning it by hand, and pick the “perfect” time to move it to the kiln to dry and stop the germination process.


The BenRiach is a Speyside distillery and is known for doing things in its own way. Dr. Rachel Barrie is one of the most respected master blenders in the business.  And, in 2021, she’s taken a single malt Scotch in an entirely new direction with Malting Season.


“Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with BenRiach being one of only seven distilleries in Scotland to continue the practice of floor malting.

Distilling spirit from barley malted here on site is a true labour of love and something we are passionate about keeping alive here at BenRiach as an ode to our creative whisky-making heritage.”Stewart Buchanan, The BenRiach global brand ambassador


It begins with the aforementioned once-a-year malting. A concerto strain of barley, the most common, was used, and in this case, 100% of it came from the malting floor. The distillation took place on November 2, 2012. That single malt new make then aged in two types of casks:  virgin American oak and former Bourbon barrels and rested for nine years. The yield was 6672 bottles, and you can expect to pay about $149.99 for a 750ml package.


Before I get to the review, I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Malting Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I’ll #DrinkCurious and get to it.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Malting Season presented as the color of bright gold. It left a medium-thick rim that led to husky, slow legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Honey was obvious. Peach, vanilla, Fuji apple, malt, and raw almond aromas lay beneath. As I pulled the air through my lips, the Fuji apple gained strength.


Palate:  The mouthfeel offered a medium-weight body and was silky. Fuji apple, Bartlett pear, and honey started things off. As the whisky moved to the middle, toasted almond and vanilla took over. Then, on the back was a blend of oak, white peppercorn, and milk chocolate.


Finish:  The oak became dry, the white pepper remained, and then became sweet with honey and apple, then featured a redux of the dry oak. This was one of those big finishes that lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Malting Season is a stunningly good Scotch. The balanced palate and finish offered a substantial presence with bold flavors. There’s no astringent. There’s no peat. The proof is just right without being unnecessarily diluted. Would I spend $149.99 on this? I believe so, but I’d also like to see it come down about $20.00 or so in price. Regardless, this earned every bit of my Bottle rating. Grab one. This is the first edition of what’s sure to become an amazing annual release. 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.



Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Benriach Smoke Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

The Speyside region is known for many things, but peated whiskies are the exception to the rule. Those that have this quality tend to be mildly so.


For the last fifty years, The BenRiach has been offering a line of peated Scotches. I’ve reviewed a few of them and found them to be quite tasty. Even the Peated Cask Strength was not overly peated. During the summer, Benriach would send peated malt through the still. For the remainder, it would distill unpeated malt. It calls the period when peated malt is used Smoke Season.


“Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and this new addition gives both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet, and smoky character of Benriach single malt, crafted in Speyside, a whisky-making region rarely associated with peated malt. At Benriach, we never stop exploring how fruit, oak barley, and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in our broad range of eclectic casks.”Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


Smoke Season is an intensely-peated single-malt Scotch that carries no age statement. It aged in a small portion of first-fill Bourbon barrels, with the majority in both charred and toasted virgin American oak casks. Bottled at 52.8% ABV (105.6°), this is the first year it has been available in the US market. You can expect to pay about $71.99 for a 750ml package.


I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Smoke Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. The way we make that part happen is to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Smoke Season presented as a bronze amber. It made an ultra-thin rim on the glass that gave no time whatsoever for the watery legs to crash back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: There is no mistake that this is a peated whisky!  Burnt oak, caramel, vanilla, toffee, and citrus provided a well-balanced aroma that would drive any Islay fan bonkers. When I drew the air into my mouth, vanilla and toasted oak caressed my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was slick and oily, coating every nook and cranny of my mouth. The front featured a Crème Brulee that was subjected a bit too long to the flame and cinnamon. At mid-palate, I tasted pear, caramel apple, and orange peel. The back suggested charred oak, black pepper, and dark chocolate.


Finish:  The smoky finish offered no astringent quality. It consisted of charred oak and barbeque smoke. Poking through those heavy notes was a vanilla blast. The whole thing lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m a big fan of Islay Scotches, and while this one was out of the Speyside region, I’d put this one up against many of them. If you blindfolded one such enthusiast, it would not shock me if they guessed this was something out of Port Charlotte. Sure, it doesn’t have an age statement, but who cares? I loved this. You will, too. Buy one, because this takes a Bottle rating. 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.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

BenRiach The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve Reviews & Tasting Notes


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

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

Monday, March 15, 2021

BenRiach The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten Reviews & Tasting Notes


Speyside whiskies aren't exactly known for smoky qualities. These are the Scotch workhorses, the region where many newbies begin their Scotch journey. They tend to be easy drinkers, and for the most part, lack nuances that some drinkers can find off-putting. The Speyside region is known for rich, fruity flavors, little-to-no peat, and is where a majority of Scotland's distilleries are located. 

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."

I've decided to do a side-by-side comparison of two ten-year single malts from this distillery.  The former is The Original Ten, which is the core whisky for The BenRiach, and the latter is The Smoky Ten. This is an interesting exercise because while similar in some aspects (both single malts, both aged in three types of cooperage, both aged a decade, both are naturally-colored), they also can't be any more different from one another. In a preview of an upcoming review, I'll also do the same with its twelve-year cousins.

Before I #DrinkCurious with these whiskies, I'd like to thank The BenRiach for providing me samples of The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews.

The Original Ten

This is the flagship whisky representing this distillery. It has matured in Bourbon, sherry, and toasted virgin oak casks. Bottled at 43% ABV (86°), you can expect to spend about $45.00, offering a low barrier of entry.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, The Original Ten suggested the color of golden straw. It formed a medium ring, with medium-weight legs that fell back into the liquid sunshine.

Nose:  If you were blindfolded, you'd swear you were walking through an orchard. Aromas of cherry, orange, and plum were everywhere. Honey and brine followed. When I took a whiff with my open lips, it was pure honey. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily with a medium body. On the front, I tasted apricot, pear, and orange peel. The middle was simple with malt and honey, and the back featured oak, vanilla, and almond paste.

Finish:  Out of nowhere, there was a puff of smoke, it was very slight but unmistakable. Oak, honey, clove, and pink peppercorn offered a medium-to-long finish. I was a bit taken back that my hard palate sizzled at only 86°.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Original Ten goes down easy while being a memorable pour. I'm assuming that while aging it picked up peat from the air, that or a small portion of the malted barley used peat in the drying process. The fact that my hard palate reacted was puzzling. In my opinion, someone new to Scotch would love this - it lacks any astringent (Band-Aid) quality. At the same time, an experienced fan of Speysides would find this a nice change of pace. Looking at the price, this seems like a no-brainer Bottle rating. 


The Smoky Ten

If you assume this is simply a "smoky" version of the flagship Scotch, you'd be wrong. The three types of casks used to age The Smoky Ten are Bourbon, Jamaican rum, and toasted virgin oak. It also utilizes peated barley from the Highland region.  Packaged at 46% ABV (92°), a bottle will set you back about $49.00. Considering the proof and age, that's a decent price for Scotch.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Smoky Ten gave a yellow gold appearance, like what you'd see on a nice watch. It made a thin rim, but slow, sticky, thick legs dropped back to the pool.

Nose:  The peat is obvious. It isn't the same as you'd find as something from the Islay region, but it is true to its name:  smoky. Once you get past it, honey, apricot, and orange marmalade gave it a sweet nose.  When I took the fumes into my mouth, smoky vanilla rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was medium in weight, but lacked the oiliness of The Original Ten. Similar to the nose, peat was the first sensation experienced. The front also had flavors of vanilla wafer and honey. As it worked its way past, it became malty with roasted pear and orange citrus. The back brought the peat back, along with oak, clove, and tobacco leaf.

Finish:  Long and drying, The Smoky Ten had a bit of pucker power. I almost instinctively smacked my tongue against the roof of my mouth as peat, dry oak, and brine eventually yielded to black pepper.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you've been reading my reviews for a while, you know I'm attracted to the unusual, and peated whisky out of the Speyside region is that. Peat is something I enjoy, and I realize that's not for everyone. But I'll go on out on a limb and suggest if you don't like peat (or you've never tried it), this may be a good opportunity to dip your toe in the water. The price gives a lot of bang for the buck, and it's a tasty dram. My Bottle rating is well-deserved.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The BenRiach Curiositas 10 Year Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

Peated whiskeys are almost synonymous with Scotch. If you asked the average person what they thought of Scotch, I wouldn't be shocked to find a majority would tell you they're smoky and ashy. That's peat.

But, that's also not what a good portion of Scotches are all about.  In fact, in Scotland's Speyside region, the region that is home to the highest concentration of distilleries, peated whisky is an anomaly. 

The folks at The BenRiach like to do things differently.  Owned by America's Brown-Forman, they're different just by being American-owned. If you want to know the background of this distillery, you can read my review of their Peated Cask Strength Scotch from July 6th.

Today I'm reviewing its Curiositas 10 Single Malt.  If you're looking at the name and thinking that sounds more Latin than Gaelic, you'd be right. That's also something that The BenRiach does differently than its counterparts. This is, unsurprisingly, a 10-year old single malt that is blended from whiskies aged in Bourbon barrels and Sherry casks. Using about 55ppm of peat, the malted barley is dried by Highland-sourced peat (versus Islay-sourced peat).  As such, it lacks much of the salinity that many peated Scotches offer.  It is bottled at 46% ABV (that's 92° for Americans) and retails for about $54.99.

Before I get started, I'd like to thank Brown-Forman for providing me a sample of Curiositas 10 in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review.  And now, time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Scotch appears as the color of straw.  With Scotch, distilleries are allowed to add inert caramel coloring, and I have no information suggesting whether or not this is naturally- or artificially-colored. I'll hazard a guess that, based upon the very light color, it is likely natural.  It left a medium rim and created slow, thick legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I could smell the peat before I even got started. This was more earthy than iodine and astringent.  Once I got past the smokiness, aromas of banana cream pie (yeah, the whole freaking pie), nutmeg, and allspice made me smile. When I inhaled through my lips, a blast of vanilla ran across my palate. There was no associated peat.

Palate:  Even before I got to figure out the mouthfeel, the peat was there - light but also definitive. Once I got past the palate shock, I discovered a thick, oily mouthfeel that coated everywhere.  Vanilla and apple grabbed my attention. As it moved mid-palate, flavors of old leather and tobacco leaf, something you'd more expect from an American whiskey than Scotch, took over. On the back, it was a blend of banana and very dry oak.

Finish:  A very long finish of dry oak and clove spiced things up and was almost natural considering everything else going on. This was very well-balanced.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I understand that peat isn't for everyone. It wasn't my thing when I first got started in Scotch (which, incidentally, is where I got my start in whisky appreciation). But it grew on me.  Curiositas 10 would be an excellent introduction for those who are peat-curious.  It is there, but not overwhelming. You can easily pick out other flavors. There are no iodine or seaweed notes that you'd find in many Islay or other Island Scotches. It is also unusual for a Speyside. 

I enjoyed the heck out of this, and when you factor in the affordable (for Scotch) price tag, and then you further consider this isn't your average 80° Scotch, this one becomes a very easy Bottle recommendation. Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, July 6, 2020

BenRiach Peated Cask Strength Batch 2 Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Cask-strength whiskey is nothing new, but when you find it in a Scotch, well, that has the potential to be something special. Today I'm reviewing BenRiach Peated Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch - Batch 2.  Whew! That's a mouthful, isn't it?  Well, wait for the review.

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 biggest firm, Pattison, Edler & Company went under, they took out nearly a dozen others in the process. That cascaded and led 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 was acquired by Pernod-Ricard in 2001. 

And, then, the distillery was shuttered again from 2002 to 2004.  It was purchased by Brown-Forman, which owns BenRiach to this day. The Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, runs things "unconventionally Speyside."

"As progressive Speyside whisky distillers, BenRiach crafts unpeated, peated and triple distilled malt whisky and holds some of the most experimental casks in Speyside. Small wonder the distillery team have nicknamed the distillery ‘The Lab’."

Now that the backstory is done, let's get back to this particular whisky.  Being a single-malt Scotch, the mash is 100% malted barley. Once distilled, it is triple cask matured using ex-Bourbon barrels, ex-Oloroso sherry casks, and virgin oak hogshead.   In the case of Batch 2, Barrie chose casks from 2006, 2007, and 2008. As this was bottled in 2018, the math tells us she used 9-, 10-, and 11-year old whiskies. Non-chill filtered and naturally-colored, this 60% ABV Scotch retails for $99.99. 

I'd like to thank BenRiach for sending me a sample of this Scotch in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Batch 2 appeared as golden straw.  It created a very fat rim that formed fat, sticky droplets. Those eventually led to slow, thick legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Let's get something out of the way. Peated whiskies smell of peat. The trick is to get past that. Just as there is a thing called palate shock, there is an olfactory shock as well. You need to let your senses get used to the peat.  The peat itself was married with brine, and underneath those were rich vanilla, dark fruit, oak, fresh coconut, honey, and apples. When I inhaled through my parted lips, I found orange zest.

Palate:  The first sip was obviously peated. But I'll be a monkey's uncle if this is 120°.  I'm not doubting it, rather, there was nothing in terms of heat in my mouth or throat. It had a very creamy mouthfeel. It was just lovely. 

Once the palate shock ended, the front was a heavy punch of thick vanilla. That was combined with toasted oak and a Heath bar. Mid-palate, it changed to roasted almonds and brown sugar, plus a blend of lime and tangerine. Yeah, I know, that's  a very different flavor profile. The complexity continued on the back with caramel, a Mounds bar, and Red Hots.

Finish:  Medium-to-long, the finish consisted of dried oak, cinnamon sticks, and ginger beer.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There were a lot of very fun and interesting flavors involved. I don't think I've ever used three candy descriptors before, but there was no other way to describe things. I loved the variation and creativity with this whisky. A C-note for barrel-proof Scotch is honestly a bargain, and this is delicious to boot. 

If peat is your thing, you're going to love this.  It isn't heavily-peated like Octomore or Ardbeg, this one is more along the lines of Talisker Storm. For you (and me), I give this a no-brainer Bottle rating. If you're new to peat, you may want to try this one first. Peat isn't for everyone. Despite its price tag, this would be a very nice introduction to peated whisky.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It