Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Classic BenRiach

BenRiach is one of the more interesting distilleries around today. Located in the Speyside region of Scotland, it was traded among big companies for many years before being purchased by an independent group of businessmen in 2004. The same group now owns the GlenDronach distillery as well.

One of the things I like about BenRiach is that they make mini bottles of more than just their youngest expression. They sell two four-mini bottle sets: (1) the Classic Collection includes the no age statement Heart of Speyside, 12, 16 and 20 year olds; (2) the Peated & Classic Collection includes the 12 and 16 year old along with the peated 10 year old Curiositas and peated 21 year old Authenticus. Both sets run from $24 to $30, and they are available at Hi-Time and Binny's.

Since I've already written up Curiositas, I thought I'd dive into the Classic Collection (prices listed below are for full sized bottles).

BenRiach Heart of Speyside, 40% abv

I didn't include a price for this non age statement version of BenRiach because I couldn't find it listed for sale on any of the US sites. It may be that the miniature is the only version available here. The nose on this is all fruit with pears, green grapes and Riesling. The palate is white grape juice with malt in the background. The finish is short-lived, a bit fruity, a bit soapy. This is a very light, fruity malt. Not exactly my style but not unpleasant.

BenRiach 12, 43% ($40)

The nose on the 12 year old definitely has some of the fruity notes from the Heart of Speyside, but they are more muted and have more malt. The palate is less fruit juice than fruit wine with some more complex fruit notes, such as berries, overlayed on a malty canvass. The finish is more malty than fruity.

BenRiach 16, 43% abv ($70)

At 16 years, the malt has overtaken the fruit on the nose, but there is still substantial fruit. The fruit on the palate is now more of a dried fruit variety with plenty of malt on all sides; there's also a slight sulphur note. It still has a fairly light character and is quite sweet.

BenRiach 20, 43% abv ($100)

The nose on this one is quite mild with floral notes. The palate has shed its fruit in favor of sweet malt. It's definitely richer than its younger siblings, with malt and just a whisper of ash. The finish gives you lingering malt and a bit more of the floral note that was on the nose.

I can't say I'm overly impressed with the BenRiach line. Sweet and fruity is simply not my favored flavor profile, but if it's yours, you may want to dig into these. I did enjoy the less fruity 20 year old, but at $100, there are many other malts I would pick ahead of it.

1 comment:

Josh Feldman said...

Nice summary of the BenRiach unpeated non-secondary wood finished line of "classic" expressions. This is kind of Speyside malt that BenRiach made for decades under Chivas Bros. Recently there have been such an explosion of different experiments - it's kind of nice to see them promoting their core expressions. I appreciate that you didn't think they were knockouts. In my experience I concur.

Nevertheless, there's a nice drinkable base here and the new BenRiach is showing plenty of promise - given how new the current operation is. Given the fact that they have produced winners, I wager their "hit percentage" will go up over time as they figure it all out.