Philip Day discusses BenRiach, a single malt Scotch whisky from Speyside
Situated in the North-East region of Morayshire, in the ‘Heart of Speyside’, BenRiach exhibits all the traditional charm of a Speyside distillery.
Its story is typical of the great Speyside distilleries. Established by whisky entrepreneur John Duff in 1898, the distillery made use of barley was grown around the distillery, harvested from the rolling barley fields that rise to the foothills of the Grampian Mountains. The distillery, drew then as it draws now, all the water it needs from the Burnside springs located underground, deep below the distillery. Local peat, cut from the hills, fired BenRiach’s kiln to produce the necessary heat to control the germination process of the barley, spread across the floors of the malting loft to germinate, then fired the stills as distillery manager oversaw the slow and deliberate crafting process of the BenRiach whisky, in which the transformation from malted barley to wash, to distilled spirit was lovingly managed. He would then nurture the maturing whisky in its high-quality oak casks, as the whisky aged during its lengthy slumbers.
|Owned by||The distillery is operated by
|Benriach Distillery Co Ltd
Lochend Industrial Estate
Queen Anne Drive
EH28 8PL , ScotlandBenriach Distillery Longmorn, Elgin, Morayshire, IV30 3SJ, Scotland
|Founded in||1898||Telephone||+44 1343 862888 (Distillery)
+44 141 456 260 (Company)
The BenRiach Distillery was established by John Duff in 1898, on the same site as the nearby Longmorn Distillery, also owned by Duff (established in 1893). Apparently the distilleries were linked by a private railway, with its own private steam locomotive, affectionately referred to as the ‘Puggy’, to transport coal, barley, peat and barrels between the distilleries, which began operation in 1900.
However, Duff’s timing proved to be unfortunate, preceding the ‘Pattison Crash’ by just a few months. ‘Pattison, Elder and Co’, fronted by Robert and Walter Pattison, were the biggest purchaser of whisky at that time to support their blended whisky business. At the time, distilleries had been willing to extend significant credit to Pattison Elder, because of their significant purchasing power, meanwhile being unaware of the firm’s precarious financial position. When Pattison, Elder and Co eventually declared themselves bankrupt, the whisky business sank into a long period of deep recession, crippling many distilleries in the process. Widespread distillery closures followed and BenRiach was mothballed after just two years of production. Although BenRiach’s maltings floor was kept in constant production during this period, providing malted barley for the fully operational Longmorn Distillery, the distillery itself remained closed until 1965.
In that year, the Scotch whisky industry entered a golden era and suddenly new distilleries were being commissioned and mothballed distilleries re-opened, including BenRiach, by new owners Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. The distillery was almost totally rebuilt internally, however, its period features and the original character of the building were maintained, and more importantly, the production of whisky for use in blends recommenced.
In 1978 ownership of the distillery changed hands again, this time to Seagrams, who became part of Pernod Ricard in 2001 and by this time the operations of BenRiach were cut back to just three months of every year. (In 2002, the distillery was again mothballed.)
For the first time in its history, in 1994, The BenRiach is released as a single malt brand in its own right. The whisky was bottled at 10 years old, included as part of the Seagrams ‘Heritage Collection’
In 2004 the distillery was acquired by an independent consortium, the BenRiach Distillery Company Limited.
The BenRiach distillery is currently owned by the USA based Brown-Forman Corporation after it reached an agreement on 1 June 2016 to purchase The BenRiach Distillery Company Limited for approximately £285 million. The purchase brought GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries, all BenRiach Distillery Company Limited brands into Brown-Forman’s portfolio.
The BenRiach core whisky portfolio includes :
The Flagship range
- Heart of Speyside, 40% ABV
- Aged 10 years, 43% ABV
- Aged 16 years, 43% ABV
- Aged 20 years, 43% ABV
The Peated range
- Peated Quarter casks, 46% ABV
- Birnie Moss, 48% ABV
- Curiositas Aged 10 years, 46% ABV
- Septendecim Aged 17 years, 46% ABV
- Authenticus Aged 25 years, 46% ABV
The Wood Finishes range
- Tawny Port 21 years, 46% ABV
- Pedro Ximenez 17 years, 46% ABV
- Moscatel Aged 22 years, 46% ABV
- Sherry Wood Matured Aged 12 years, 46% ABV
- Aged 25 years, 46.8% ABV
- Aged 35 years, 42.5% ABV
Several of the special Limited release bottlings and Archive releases achieve premium to very high price tickets thanks to their rarity. (See website for more details)
My Personal Selection:
(Tasting notes adapted from the BenRiach Distillery website)
BenRiach Heart of Speyside, 40% ABV – the perfect introduction to the Classic Speyside range.
|Aroma||Intriguing notes of fruit, honey, heather, spice and oak|
|Taste||This expression cleverly captures fruit, honey, heather and spice notes against a backdrop of mellow oak wood, in a fresh and lively combination.|
|Finish||As the taste sensation deepens, waves of warming pepper and peaty smoke develop as a warming afterglow with a long lingering hint of sweetness of the malt.|
BenRiach Aged 10 years, 43% ABV
BenRiach 10 Years Old is Classic Speyside in character. However the cask formula focuses on the use of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. This fresh, lively, fruit-laden single malt captures flavours of warm oak spices, green apples, dried apricots, peaches and banana with subtle touches of aniseed, lemon zest and barley.
|Colour||Crisp summer gold.|
|Aroma||A fresh and lively combination of crisp, green orchard fruits, stem ginger and hints of tangerine mellows to creamy vanilla with a delicate note of mint and a gentle twist of citrus, all held together with a sweet barley back note.|
|Taste||Warm toasted oak spices flood through green apple skins and dried apricots, ripening to hints of peach and soft banana.|
|Finish||Subtle touches of aniseed and lemon zest create a contrasting edge to the fruit and add an intriguing character to the long, crisp barley finish.|
BenRiach Peated Quarter Casks, 46% ABV
A unique single malt distilled from peated malted barley then fully matured in quarter casks. Such smaller casks allow for more interaction between the wood and the spirit, giving the whisky a great depth of flavour and aroma in a shorter period of time. Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and natural colour, this is an extraordinary, full-flavoured dram.
|Colour||Bright summer gold.|
|Nose||Elegant waves of wood smoke intensify to burning heather with a delicious contribution of ripe orchard fruits. Subtle hints of peaches, cinnamon sugar and a slight herbal note of fresh barley give an added contrast to the unique, rich peat character.|
|Taste||Intense peat smoke mellows to smouldering peat embers infused with green pear and nectarine notes.|
|Finish||Nutty oak and vanilla pods combine with a touch of white pepper and a twist of lime to give a crisp, smoky finish.|
BenRiach Birnie Moss, 48% ABV
Birnie Moss is the name of an area of windswept moorland
situated close to the BenRiach distillery.
This fine single malt was the first bespoke whisky to be delivered from the BenRiach distillery under its current stewardship heralding a new chapter in production.
Birnie Moss is a whisky bursting with originality.
Very different in style for a Speyside malt, this unique expression wields its peaty, smoky character with a precocious vigour.
|Aroma||Rich peaty notes in wonderful balance with vanilla and oak wood.|
|Taste||An avalanche of rich, sweet Speyside peat, in combination with vanilla and tropical fruits.|
|Finish||Elegantly expressive finish.|
BenRiach Aged 35 years, 42.5% ABV
An exceptional malt to be savoured and enjoyed with each sip in every stage from nose to tongue to afterglow. Non chill filtered and bottled at natural colour, the BenRiach 35 years old is a classic Speyside single malt
|Colour||Rich golden amber.|
|Aroma||Luscious tropical fruit salad syrup with a delicate ripped mint and chocolate back note; all warmed by a gentle toasted oak spice.|
|Taste||A classic Speyside style combining waves of papaya and dried apricots with freshly-sawn oak spices.|
|Finish||Touches of golden syrup and distant milk chocolate develop pleasingly on the palate, which gently flow through the elegant long finish.|
- Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2017, Murray, J, 2013,Dram good books Limited, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK.
- Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2014, Murray, J, 2011,Dram good books Limited, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK
- Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ronde I, 9th Revised edition, 2013, MagDig Media Limited, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, UK.
- 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, Buxton, I, 2010, Hachette Scotland, London, UK
BenRiach is a trademarked brand of single malt whisky by the Brown-Forman Corporation.
For information about responsible drinking visit Drinkaware.co.uk