And now, three new limited releases from BenRiach, one of the few distilleries in Speyside that uses peat in some of its expressions. (BenRiach also triple distills some of its whisky, another oddity for Scotland.) All three of the whiskies reviewed below are a bit off the beaten path for single malt.
BenRiach Classic Cask Strength Batch #2 – This is a no-age-statement blend of whiskies from ex-bourbon barrels, Oloroso sherry casks, and virgin oak barrels. Big notes of licorice, black pepper, cloves, and gunpowder are all atypical for single malt Scotch. Credit (or blame) the virgin oak for that — this whisky wears its new oak notes on its sleeve. Heady on the nose and the palate, bold notes of fresh lumber, beef jerky, a bit of smoke, and roasted meat — again, all driven by new oak. After the initial savory rush, some sweetness merges. Water helps, revealing notes of nougat, lemon syrup, and almond. The finish is easy and short, again evocative of the barrel foremost. 121.2 proof. B / $95
BenRiach Single Cask #7367 Virgin Oak 10 Years Old – This is the Classic Cask Strength x2. Or more, considering it’s entirely aged in new, unused barrels. Huge lumberyard notes, immense with pepper, cloves, bacon, and almost acrid barrel char fill the nose. Malted barley has had quite a time interacting with the new oak, beaten to within an inch of its life by all that wood. Notes of red pepper, plum, and allspice add some nuance… but all have trouble competing with the overwhelming influence of the barrel. 118.8 proof. B- / $95
BenRiach Single Cask #2683 Peated Port Wood Finish 12 Years Old – This is a peated whisky, aged (presumably) in bourbon barrels and finished in Port pipes. The peat element dominates the nose, coming across as smoky though not particular salty, with some spice hiding beneath. The palate sees fruit melding with the smoky character, with notes of dusky, dried berries, blackberry bramble, and some menthol emerging. The finish keeps the full court press of wood smoke going strong, drowning out any real nuance. 107.2 proof. B / $110