Four years after its acquisition by Brown-Forman, Speyside’s BenRiach has relaunched its entire core lineup — and dropped the capital R. It’s formally “Benriach Distillery” now. That’s hardly the most interesting thing about the relaunch, though. The new core of four single malts includes two 10 year olds and two 12 year olds — two of which are peated, a significant rarity for Speyside. All three of the expressions are triple-cask matured — and all use a different combination of casks.
The distillery looked at its history for inspiration in developing the new core range, which was artistically crafted by Master Blender Rachel Barrie and her team. The result spans the full spectrum of whisky flavor while keeping with its long-standing tradition of distilling classic, peated and triple distilled whisky and drawing from its vast eclectic cask inventory sourced from around the world.
Inspired by the 1994 bottling of the Original Ten with its fruit-laden complexity and smooth, rounded taste, the new range re-imagines the 1898 origins of Benriach, brought to life in the 21st century through fusing distilling styles with extraordinary casks. It also features a new recipe for Benriach’s richly sherried 12 year-old whisky, including port and bourbon casks married for seamless smooth complexity.
The extraordinarily sweet smoky whisky distilled in the distillery’s smoke season features in the new Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve expressions. Both have their own flavor palate, created by selecting and maturing in bespoke oak casks, interwoven with Benriach’s hallmark sweet smoke.
The updated packaging is reminiscent of the very first Benriach single malt released over two decades ago, with the portfolio color palette taking inspiration from Speyside’s natural environment in which the distillery sits.
We received small samples of all four whiskies for review, so let’s dive in.
Benriach The Original Ten – A blend of bourbon, sherry, and virgin oak casks. Bold nougat and wood shaving notes on the nose, with notes of green barley and overripe apple fruit. The palate is quite malty and chewy, big with cereal notes and that classic burlap sack character. Some applesauce finally fruits up the finish, which is otherwise gritty and a bit smoldering. 86 proof. B / $54 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]
Benriach The Smoky Ten – Peated whisky, matured in bourbon, Jamaican rum, and toasted virgin oak casks. The peat here is surprisingly aggressive, reminiscent of oaky wood fires, and filtered through notes of black pepper and well-browned butter. The smoke is quickly tempered on the palate, letting a creamy and gently fruity whisky come to the fore. Notes of apples and bananas, layered with baking spice, linger on the gently peaty finish. 92 proof. B+ / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]
Benriach The Original Twelve – A blend of bourbon, sherry, and Port wine casks. 10 years old. Similar to the Original Ten, but richer and more woody on the nose, with notes of sesame oil. The palate is also more bold and buttery, with coconut and milk chocolate notes emerging. There’s a hint of Port-driven raisin amidst a spicy character that builds, leading to a grain-heavy but immersive and rounded finish. 92 proof. A- / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]
Benriach The Smoky Twelve – Peated whisky, matured in bourbon, sherry, and Marsala wine casks. Restrained but mildly smoky on the nose, with hints of mint and some camphor. The smoke hits on the palate, with a buttercream base propping up notes of sweet apple pie, milk chocolate, and vanilla. There’s a hint of red fruit on the finish. My favorite of the lineup. 92 proof. A- / $65 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]