BenRiach Vertical II – Unpeated Malt – Tuesday February 12 2013

BenRiach Distillery is one of those to keep an acute eye on these days. Since being acquired by BenRiach Distillery Co. from Pernod Ricard in 2004 the distillery has gone on to release an assortment of whiskies rivaled only by Bruichladdich in quantity. Early in 2013 we received a new shipment of single cask vintage BenRiach bottlings from Batch 9. As there were too many individual bottling to fit into one tasting, and an assortment of other BenRiach single casks already in store, it was decided to break them up into Peated and Unpeated vertical flights.


The peated BenRiach Vertical I tasting has been put off until March 13th (you can register for it here: ), and a posting on that tasting will follow this one. Only 6 bottles of most of these whiskies made it to the market, with the exception of the KWM cask.

As these are all single casks, of varying strengths and cask types the order they were sampled does not exactly correlate to their ages. As always, I try to arrange the whiskies by flavour profile, from lightest to strongest. All whiskies are cask strength. 5 of the 7 are from Batch 9, one from Batch 8 and another a cask bottled for KWM. The tasting:

  1. BenRiach 1983 Cask 291 - 43.1% – 29 Year – Hogshead Cask -My Tasting Note: “Nose: soft white chocolate, granular sugars, chewy malt and floral tones; Highland toffee, citrus fruits, melons and pineapple; Palate: light, soft, malty and toasty; wisps of floral tendrils and grassy-chewy malt; crystallized honey, toffee chews and liquid caramel with ripe orange and cantaloupe; Finish: sweet and toasty w/ emergin sweet spice, very delicate and decadent with drying white chocolate.” - $209.99 – Only 2 left!
  2. BenRiach 1983 KWM Cask 298 - 44.2% – 29 Year – Hogshead Cask - My Tasting Note: ”Nose: creamy and toasty with floral and tropical fruit notes, Manukah honey, fresh strawberries and barley sugar; melons, mangos and kiwis; Palate: lush, rich, honeyed and very fruity; waves of mango, pineapple, papaya and melons; honeydew and cantaloupe; fresh thick cream w/ more heathery honey, toasty oak and dusty malt; Finish: drying, toasty and oaky yet creamy with hints of the glorious tropical fruits; long and very smooth.” - $205.99
  3. BenRiach 1990 Cask 2596 – 53.4% – 22 Year – Tawny Port Finish – My Tasting Note: “Nose: damp muddy earth, macerated raisins, dark chocolate and damp tobacco leaf; brandy soaked cherries, cranberry juice and musty oak; Palate: massively grapey, sangria, fruity chocolate, bitter cigar tobacco, very dark spices and dark fruit; cloves, Dutch licorice and burnt wood; Finish: more grapey dark fruits and earthy/leathery notes; long, very tannic and drying.” – $145.49
  4. BenRiach 1980 Cask 2531 (Batch 8 ) – 49.8% – 31 Year – Virgin American Oak Finish – My Tasting Note: “Nose: toasted coconut chips, vanilla extract, double cream, big citrus notes; orange and grapefruit; coffee liqueur and cognac like; Palate: velvety and toasted, very decadent and seductive; liquefied white chocolate, peaches n cream, tangerines and apricots; sweet spices and French press; Finish: sweet, cream and gently spiced with candied nuts and thick-coating-buttery oak.” - $307.99 – Only 1 left!
  5. BenRiach 1977 Cask 2593 – 44.2% – 34 Year – Sauternes Finish – My Tasting Note: “Nose: very grapey, brandy, grape pith, wet leaves and earthy soil; maple syrup on blueberry pancakes; vegetal: caramelized carrots and beets; Palate: lots of layers, chocolate caramel tart, fruit compote, more maple syrup  on whole wheat blueberry pancakes; more caramelized vegetables too: carrots and turnips with bold leather; Finish: leathery but sweet, more blueberry notes with subtle sweet spice.” - $318.99
  6. BenRiach 1977 Cask 2588 – 44.1% – 34 Year – Rioja Finish – My Tasting Note: “Nose: corn syrup, heather honey, baklava with chocolate; Late Bottle Vintage port wine, toffee cake and treacle sauce with chocolate coffee beans; Palate: very big, round and rich with full body and dry spices over top of dried fruits; big moist candied fruit, rich mango and papaya (where did those come from) with more toffee cake and treacle; Finish: sweet drying and darkly fruity; chocolate with mango and papaya.” - $318.99
  7. BenRiach 1976 Cask 6967 – 59.0% – 35 Year – First Fill Sherry Butt – My Tasting Note: “Nose: leather, tobacco, cloves, Dunnage warehouse and burnt dark fruits; overly caramelized crème brule, burnt orange peel, candied notes and espresso beans; Palate: massively sherried, dark fruits, dark spices, pipe tobacco and new leather; big and earthy with dark chocolate, black licorice and burnt fruits; some candies nut notes too; Finish: drying, sweet, spicy and leathery with more dark chocolate and black licorice.” - $416.99

The Top 3 By Popular Vote:

  1. BenRiach 1977 Cask 2593
  2. BenRiach 1983 KWM Cask 298
  3. BenRiach 1980 Cask 2531

My Top 3:

  1. BenRiach 1983 KWM Cask 298
  2. BenRiach 1980 Cask 2531
  3. BenRiach 1977 Cask 2593

All of them were interesting whiskies. The 1976 was a big sherry bomb, and the 1977 Rioja finish was very tropical, but the KWM 1983 cask and 1980 stood out head and shoulders above the others. It was really interesting to compare the two 1983 single casks, 291 and 298 (KWM). Both whiskies were from Hogsheads, likely filled the same day, both sub 45% cask strength and very similar. But the difference between them was quite striking. Cask 298 was richer, more layered and had tropical fruits not at all present in 291. Even the body of the KWM cask was much more full and round.

Bring on BenRiach Vertical I – Peated Malts on March 13th!

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