The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Benriach

Optimus aqua vitae from the weird and wacky Benriach range

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For a long time, the BenRiach distillery was in the shadow of its larger neighbour, Longmorn. Not any more though. As excellent as Longmorn's whisky is, BenRiach's reputation among single malt aficionados continues to soar with a stunning range that caters for pretty much every conceivable palate and budget.

In my time working at the Norwich branch of the Whisky Shop chain, I was often asked to advise customers who wanted to buy something that was a little bit different, inexpensive, high quality and not found on a supermarket shelf. The answer, more often than not, was BenRiach. The reason is simple. It is, in my honest opinion, the best value malt on the market, and will satisfy lovers of both the traditional Speyside and Islay styles and a great deal in between. If there's one distillery that personifies the blurring of the traditional whisky styles expected from a region, BenRiach is it.

That it hasn't enjoyed the reputation of other Speyside distilleries is probably down to the fact that it was closed between 1900 and 1965 and again between 2002 and 2004, after which it was bought by a consortium led by Billy Walker (Glendronach and Glenglassaugh). Many consumers have still never even heard of it, but I suspect it won't remain unknown for that much longer. In addition to the unpeated or lightly-peated Speyside style malts, BenRiach has released a triple distilled malt, a stunning set of peated malts, as well as a range of malts finished in a variety of casks, including madeira, rum, sherry, port, rioja and sauterne, PLUS a range of peated malts finished in some of these casks. They also regularly release single cask vintages (both unpeated, lightly-peated and heavily-peated). At the Norwich Whisky Club's Whisky World Cup, the overall winner was the 21 year old peated Authenticus, which beat off some of the best whisky on offer from countries like Japan, Ireland and the US.

It occurred to us that we haven't really done this distillery justice as yet - although the ten year old Curiositas appears in our Peat pack - so we have rectified that and brought you five BenRiachs that showcase the superb and diverse whisky it produces.

BenRiach 12 year old Arumaticus Fumosus

BenRiach says: "Released in May 2007, BenRiach 'Arumaticus Fumosus' is part of a range of three 12 year old heavily peated BenRiachs, originally matured in American oak and then finished either in sherry, port or dark rum wood. In the case of 'Arumaticus Fumosus', the whisky has been finished in Jamaican Dark Rum Barrels, and the name, which is Latin, literally translates to 'smoky rum'".

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Dry, sweet peat. Gristy. Rum and raisin ice cream.
Palate: Sharp, fruity and sweet. The peat allows the rum to have its say. A fabulous balance between the two heavyweights here

Retails for around £30-35

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BenRiach 12 year old

Although not their entry-level malt (that honour goes to their Heart of Speyside unaged malt), the 12 year old is BenRiach’s youngest aged unpeated malt. If you want an alternative to your regular entry–level honeyed and smooth Speysider, then this must be a serious contender.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Honey, vanilla, floral, fruity, with well-balanced wood overtones.
Palate: Rounded medium to full bodied, rich honey, vanilla with hints of cream, spice and chocolate.

Retails for around £30-35

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BenRiach 15 year old Madeira Finish

This expression is firstly matured in ex-bourbon casks, then “finished” in Madeira, casks, although it doesn’t state exactly which kind of Madeira. Not that it matters when it tastes this good.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Hugely juicy and grapey, creamy and buttery. Marzipan. Cloves. Eccles cake. Light oak. Plums. Chocolatey.
Palate: An avalanche of butterscotch, hazelnuts, peaches and spices, with a rich Madeira finish.

Retails for around £40-50

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BenRiach Birnie Moss Intensely Peated

BenRiach says: “Birnie Moss is an area of windswept moorland situated close to the BenRiach Distillery and it is this wild place that gives our single malt its name”. No indication is given of age and we suspect this is younger than the ten year old peated Curiositas.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Young, fresh and vibrant. Tar and searing lemon skins. Sweet peat. Cherries in dark chocolate. Buttery. Fisherman’s Friends.
Palate: Tarry rope. Medicinal. Intense, creamy and bitter sweet peat. Sugary and powdery later on.

Retails for around £25-35

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BenRiach 12 year old Importanticus Fumosus

Originally released in May 2007, BenRiach 'Importanticus Fumosus' was part of a range of three 12 year old heavily peated BenRiachs. This was originally matured in American oak and then finished in Aged Tawny Port Hogsheads. The name, which is Latin, literally translates to 'smoky port'.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Sour lemony peat. Red berry tart and vanilla cream. Chinese lantern fruit. A soft veneer of port draped over it all.
Palate: Wonderful sweet peat, bog myrtle and seaweed, with hints of vanilla, citrus and wild flowers, with a rich infusion of Port.

Retails for around £30-40

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