BenRiach Is the Best Scotch You’re Not Drinking (Yet)
Peated? Unpeated? They’ve got a dram for you.
Yesterday, we mentioned that a $30 bourbon won “Best in Show” whiskey at the San Francisco World Spirits Award.
Huzzah, kudos, etc.
Coming in second place? BenRiach Temporis 21 Years, a peated single malt Scotch that we (randomly) were trying for the very first time just hours before we saw the results from the SFWSC. Better yet, we were tasting it alongside BenRiach brand ambassador, former BenRiach production manager and all-around whiskey legend Stewart Buchanan.
We say for “the first time” because we weren’t really that familiar with BenRiach, a Speyside-based producer of very forward-thinking single malts founded in 1898. The distillery actually went through a few non-production periods (one lasting 65 years) and a couple of ownership changes (Brown Forman took over in 2016), which means it seems relatively new to some drinkers.
A few things stick out about BenRiach: They employ a female Master Blender (Rachel Barrie), which you’re not likely to find in many other distilleries (although that’s slowly changing). They’re sourcing their water from the rocks underneath the distillery, not from any nearby bodies of water (it gives the backbone of the spirit a high minerality). And most of their expressions are released in both peated and unpeated variations.
Ostensibly, we were gathered around Buchanan — who also works with The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh — to learn more about the just-launched 25 Year (more on that in a minute). But let’s run through four all four expressions we sampled.
The BenRiach 21 is matured for at least twenty-one years in a combination of four types of casks: bourbon barrels, virgin oak, Pedro Ximenez sherry and red wine casks. We got a lot of apple, pear and apricot notes here; Buchanan suggested you should drink the 21 “with a few good friends and then buy another bottle.” Unpretentious and it’s easily your everyday sipper.
The standout of the day, Temporis, is a marriage of whisky aged in bourbon barrels, virgin oak, Pedro Ximenez Sherry and Oloroso sherry casks. Buchanan suggested unusual tasting notes like “smoky bacon” and “Korean BBQ”, and we agree — but what truly stood out was the intense smokiness on the nose took up to 12 seconds to transfer in the mouth. It was like a time release of spice, and a pleasantly surprising experience.
The BenRiach 25 Years Old is aged in a range of oak casks (including remade American oak bourbon hogsheads and French Burgundy barriques). It’s non-chill filtered, with honey and apples on the nose and a chocolate-y, raisin and wood tones on the palate. This one’ll be out in April.
The already-released Authenticus 25, meanwhile, might be the mellowest peated Scotch we’ve tried. It’s rich, fruity and herbaceous, but definitely doesn’t have the smoky kick you’re expecting (especially after trying Temporis).
Prices start at $170+, so this isn’t an impulse buy. The good news, though, is that the distillery certainly has a single malt tailored for you.
Photos: Kirk Miller