Nine tiny bottles representing the heart of BenRiach’s line of Scotches have been staring me down for weeks now. Finally I’ve embarked on the massive tasting effort to review each of them.
Also known as “The BenRiach,” this Speyside outfit produces at least 18 regular bottlings, plus dozens of special, limited releases. The nine reviewed below represent an enormous range of styles, and all are relatively rare and hard to find. Curiously, all clock in at 92 proof.
BenRiach Curiositas 10 Years Old (2008) – It says “heavily peated” on the bottle, and that’s an understatement. This surprisingly pale whisky is drowning in oily peat smoke, and only through Herculean effort — and, I’d recommend, a good amount of water — do some of this whisky’s fruit notes come through. It’s not my favorite style of Scotch, but I admire its distinction. B / $50
BenRiach Authenticus 21 Years Old – Considered the “big brother” to Curiositas, it’s an older version of that whisky, overwhelmingly smoky and extremely creamy, too. Turns medicinal and has a wispy, faint, and strange finish. Rather over-aged, in this reviewer’s opinion. B / $130
BenRiach Heredotus Fumosus Pedro Ximinez Wood Finish 12 Years Old – Another heavily peated whisky, aged in sherry casks, this one has much less phenol on the nose, which allows its sweetness and fruit notes to come out. Immediately pleasant and complex, it’s smoky in one sip and crisply sweet the next. Interesting, though perhaps a little off kilter. Very rare, with just 3,150 bottles produced worldwide. B+ / $37
BenRiach Importanticus Fumosus 12 Years Old – Like the previous two, this is another big-peat whisky, aged in old tawny port casks. Similar to the Heredotus, but mellower, with even less smoke character. Hard to pick a favorite between them, but you may not have a choice: Only 2,510 bottles were produced. B+ / $37
BenRiach 15 Year Aged Tawny Port Finish – It’s night and day vs. the peat monsters above. This super-sweet whisky offers a lush sugary sweetness, caramel and butterscotch with some of the Port character slipping through. Very drinkable, but I’d have it with dessert, it’s so sweet. 2,040 bottles produced. A / $80
BenRiach 15 Years Old Dark Rum Finish – Jamaican rum barrels finish off this rather pale Scotch, giving it a kind of funky underpinning that reminds one of a Moroccan street market more than Bob Marley. Drinkable, but not a favorite. B- / $75
BenRiach 15 Years Old Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish – A very pleasing whisky, though a bit basic and unfocused. It’s got a moderate sweetness and offers fine sherry notes, but I kept wishing instead for the Tawny Port version. A- / $70
BenRiach 15 Years Old Madeira Finish – Exotic, with big toffee flavor and dark wood notes, but little smoke. Nicely sweet, and interesting. Very drinkable, and sure to generate controversy over whether you can detect the “watermelon” notes that BenRiach offers. Curious! A- / $75
BenRiach Speyside Single Malt 16 Years Old – The only “standard” bottling of BenRiach in this roundup is a pale yellow spirit, bittersweet but palatable, more woody — and woodsy, with evergreen notes — than the sweeter finished bottlings. A hefty nuttiness.. acorns? Comes across as hot, but pleasant. B+ / $76
Photos below are in the order reviewed above.