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Benriach 16 yo vs Benriach 20 yo

Benriach is one of those distilleries you might see a date of founding (1898) but virtually no bottles till the early 70s. Once upon a time, it was dreamed Benriach would be a sister to Longmorn, but the poor thing was closed for 65 years, and naturally had to be rebuilt when it reopened in 1965. For all intents and purposes, this was a modern distillery from it’s new beginnings.  Now owned by The Glenlivet Distillers, it shone through the 70s and evidently did well, for the stills were doubled in 1985 by buyers Seagrams. Now I say shone because this early period saw probably the best Benriach being made. One might blame modernization but whisky is a business, and by the 90s Seagrams had modernized various aspects of production, and so spirit character changed again.

benriachdist1

(mapio.net)

Again the distillery changed hands in 2002 and Pernod Ricard had just about decided to close Benriach and do nothing about it. And it very likely would have gone that way but for Billy Walker’s acquisition in 2004 which greatly revived the distillery’s fortunes and favour amongst whisky aficionados. Naturally, the new owners sought to interpret the Benriach as they saw fit and played with various aspects of production, like reopening the malting floors and reintroducing heavily peated malt and adjusting cut points, until they got what they wanted from the new make.

Despite the distillery’s great success and profound reversal of fortunes, or you might say precisely because of it, Billy Walker’s Benriach Distillery Company was sold to Brown-Forman of Jack Daniel’s fame this 2016. To me it is a pity as the youngest of Billy’s stock is now starting to enter maturity, maybe Billy Walker was distilling diamonds but will the new owners risk playing with a formula that works?

One strand remains true in Benriach through all this – it has always been a bit of an oddball. Every owner from the 70s to the Benriach Distillery Company has toyed with peated make, and it is this stuff that found its way into the older peated Authenticus expressions. Billy Walker himself has played around with various wood finishes and maturations though thank God not to gross excess like some other less discerning companies.

benriachstills

(farenheit173.com) (whiskystory.com)

benriachstills2

The stills pictured here are said to be exact duplicates of those installed in 1898. Note the wash stills look more pot bellied than the slimmer spirit stills. Nethier look particularly large too.

 

Benriach 16 yo 2013 bottling 43%

Benriach 16

Nose Nose: Very nice, pretty much everything I think of when I want ‘a whisky with sherry maturation’. Ice or no ice. First to the nose are some oaky lactones – broken pencils, but a whole host of juicy-stewed red fruit arrives. More wrapped up 1-a-day ‘snack bar’ than ‘juicy fresh’ though. Certainly a very pleasing and round nose. Mash up of red skins and purple skins and milk chocolate plus a smaller measure of nutmeg and maybe some cardamom. Not a huge whisky or monstrous in any way, rather more refined than massive, with a clear round centre to the nose.

Taste Palate: Quite some obvious oak and quite a bit lighter-bodied than expected. But what is promised is there though somewhat hotter and a touch more raw. More pepper and anise maybe.

Finish Finish: Medium. Dried out berries, wood again. Tannins.

Score82

Like I said, with ice or neat.

 

Benriach 20 yo (2013) 43%

Benriach 20

Nose Nose: Completely different, many many shades darker. I see ebony panels and very thick glossy varnish. Stiff patent leather, but very ‘lux’ and very musky. Lots of bitter dark chocolate and trace of cigarette ash. Raspberry and blackberry fondants. Stiff white card invites. Unlit fireplaces, ok quite sooty. This is what you drink with the evening wear. Still a very ‘tight’ whisky withe a clear round core and bell-tone clear scents. Again not massive but especially elegant.

Taste Palate: Quite dark and woody, again it’s there but more agarwood, musky scented wood, charcoal, firestarters. Not even sure there is any sherry in here.

Finish Finish: Kind of short with a dry sharp woody tannic kick.

Score85

Actually quite an experience though somewhat ‘brittle’, definitely a step up from the 16. I am not really persuaded however, but I am sure I know people who will love this.

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This entry was posted on July 5, 2016 by in Benriach and tagged .
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