Sigh. It wasn’t until I began writing this review that I discovered this bottle was a limited release and isn’t available anymore. This has happened before. I’ve had a mixed relationship with The BenRiach, from utterly disliking their 10 year-old peated Curiositas (in the face of a lot of Internet fanfare), to downright loving the purely ex-bourbon 12 year-old bottling, which is now ALSO discontinued. It’s hard to pin down a distillery when half of the products you’ve enjoyed are gone, and when they release everything from unpeated ex-bourbon malts to heavy sherry bombs, including both sherried and unsherried heavily peated malts. They do everything, but not (in my opinion) everything well.
How can you have confidence at the liquor store, when you’re not sure whether the next fresh-faced BenRiach is going to be heavenly or a bomb? Onward, I guess, to a review of a whisky you can’t buy any more, and which will conclude with me suggesting that you Must Try it. What a jerk, I don’t know why you people even read what I write…
BenRiach’s chameleon malt has, in this case begun life unpeated and spent an undisclosed amount of time (probably more than 12 years) in ex-bourbon before being transitioned into a Pedro Ximénez sherry butt to mature for additional time, totaling 15 years. The whisky is bottled at 46% ABV without chill filtration or added coloring (a practice collectively known as ‘Craft Presentation’). It retailed at the time of its release for around $50, which is pretty reasonable these days for a 15 year-old single malt, especially a sherried one.
Nose: Delectable, bursting red fruits. Fresh jellies rather than jams, raspberry coulis, red currants, fresh blackberries, real maraschino cherries. Mild buttery toffee, and a very mild nose tickle.
Palate: Medium-bodied. Coconut meat, stewed fruits (pie filling), and hints of some of the fresh fruit notes from the aroma. Mild to moderate tongue burn. Some caramelized sugars and a layer of oak-tinted malt. Sweet, but not cloying.
Finish: Long. Some charcoal and a mouth-drying coat of oaky tannins. The fruits fade quickly, leaving the wood notes to linger. These eventually evolve into marshmallow and a ghost of black licorice.
With Water: Several drops of water initially mute the aroma, necessitating a rest in the glass. Even after a rest, the aromas are shy and the only new note is herbaceous. The palate, however, is brighter and a little sweeter, with caramel-coated red apple and some added nuttiness. Try without water first, then add a few drops if desired.
Overall: The “fresh fruit” sibling to GlenDronach 12‘s meaty jam notes. I tried them side-by-side to confirm, and the differences when tasted this way are striking. A fun “diagonal” tasting, if you will, and worth trying for yourself with any GlenDronach/BenRiach where both are sherried. The ‘Riach makes the ‘Dronach more grassy and lively, while the ‘Dronach makes the ‘Riach sweeter and softer.
This bottle is everything that I like about sherried malt, and not a hint of the things I’ve disliked about past BenRiachs. Had I started with this, I would have put BenRiach right up there next to GlenDronach on my “favorites” list. If it weren’t discontinued for some unearthly reason, I’d suggest grabbing it, especially for under $60.