Benriach Cask Strength Batch 1 and Peated Cask Strength Batch 1
Benriach was very much overshadowed by Glendronach in the Billy Walker era and I was keen to explore their offerings a little more after being impressed by the core 12 year old Sherry Wood expression which I though held up really well to the Glendronach 12 year old. Scarily that review of the Sherry Wood expression was nearly 5 and a half years ago. Time really does fly.
Of course as time has moved on so has the branding and range of Benriach, as has the ownership of the distillery with Brown Forman purchasing the distillery in 2016 and allowing Mr Walker to concentrate all his efforts at Glenallachie.
The new core range kicks of with the 'Original Ten' which has been matured in bourbon, sherry and virgin oak before being vatted together by Master Blender Rachel Barrie. There's also a 'Smoky Ten' which uses both unpeated and peated spirit that has been matured in bourbon barrels, Jamaican rum barrels and toasted virgin oak casks. The 12 year old is now also a triple cask matured whisky using sherry, bourbon and port casks in the maturation. It is joined by the 'Smoky Twelve' which uses bourbon, sherry and marsala casks as well as the unpeated and peated spirit. Strangely only the 'Original Ten' isn't put out at 46% abv, instead opting for 43% abv.
Hopefully I'll get round to trying these newer releases at some point. In the meantime I'll dig back through their archives (and mine) and look at their Batch 1 Cask Strength releases, both of which came out in 2016.
The Cask Strength Batch 1 is a NAS statement release with a make up of 40% bourbon cask, 30% oloroso sherry cask and 30% virgin oak cask maturation. It's bottled at 57.2% abv and is natural colour and non chill filtered.
The Peated Cask Strength Batch 1 is also non age statement and is matured in a combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, although judging by the colour the sherry casks were used sparingly. This was bottled at 56% abv and again is natural colour and non chill filtered. All good then.
I bought both these bottles from The Celtic Whisky Shop in Dublin for the frankly great price of €40 each although you can still find both bottles around online for around £60, still not a bad price in todays crazily priced whisky marketplace.
Benriach Cask Strength Batch 1 57.2%
Nose: Very sweet and fruity. Red apples, mango, tinned peach in syrup and fresh apricots. Honey, vanilla cream, coconut shards, malt & toasted oak. Nutmeg and toasted nuts too. Water brings out lemon zest, wood polish and marshmallow.
Palate: A good mouthfeel and quite creamy. Honey, vanilla, strawberries and cream. Baked apples, apricot and cake batter. Gentle spice in the form of cinnamon, anise and mild pepper. Walnuts too along with oak tannins. Water actually ups the spice and oakiness to the point its a little too dominant.
Finish: Medium length with warming baking spices, anise and peppery woody notes.
Score: 6 out of 10
Benriach Peated Cask Strength Batch 1 56%
Nose: Autumnal bonfire smoke - dry hay, new leather, cumin and smoked lemons. Green apple and poached pears. Malt. A hint of bacon and caramel. Oak sawdust. Water makes this really malty, the smoke dies down a little and brings out some milk chocolate too.
Palate: Again a decent mouthfeel - gentle peat smoke alongside heather honey, poached pear and stewed apples with cinnamon. Orange peel, clove and cardamon. Vanilla cream too. Water brings out buttered popcorn, honeydew melon but gets sootier and ashier towards the finish.
Finish: Medium in length with some sour citrus, earthy autumnal peat smoke and creamy custard.
Score: 6 out of 10
Overall: A pleasant enough return to Benriach without being totally blown away. Solid drinking whiskies. Neither are super complex but they have enough going on to keep you sipping. Of the two I'd probably pick the Peated Cask Strength as my favourite of the two, it was a nice aside form the usual Islay medicinal peat monsters.
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