Surprisingly, I haven’t reviewed a whisky from Speyside distillery Benrinnes before. I had a nice independent bottle of Benrinnes that I enjoyed but never reviewed (I try not to bother reviewing already-sold-out store-exclusive bottles, since there’s little point), so this is the first time I’ve formally analyzed a glass from this distillery.
Benrinnes, owned by John Dewar & Sons until it was sold to Diageo in 1997, is a storied Speyside distillery that was known for a complex form of partial-triple distillation (somewhat like Springbank) that was used between 1974 and 2007. It will be interesting to see when the post-2007 liquid comes of age, if it is noticeably different. Most Benrinnes juice finds its way into blended whiskies (including some Compass Box releases), but a sherried single malt can be found in Diageo’s Flora and Fauna series, and the distillate can also be found in the A.D. Rattray brand Stronachie, which is made using Benrinnes whisky.
This one, a 17 year from That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC) is the fifth batch of Benrinnes from the bottler. In fact, they’ve just released a sixth batch of über expensive 26-year, so I’m actually glad I got to try this (slightly) more affordable one. The 17 is bottled at 47.6% ABV, which is fairly low for a cask-strength whisky, implying a lot of loss to the angel’s share. There’s precious little info on the website or online, so all I can do is guess that this is ex-bourbon (by the color), and the age tells us that this was partial-triple-distilled.
— Self-Plagiarization Section —
I was approached, recently, by That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC), an awkwardly-named independent bottler owned by my former favorite UK retailer, Master of Malt. (Former, because after acquisition by spirits giant AB InBev, they stopped shipping to the US for the foreseeable future.) Any long-time reader of this blog knows that a majority of my tasting samples come from 30ml Master of Malt Drinks by the Dram miniatures that I periodically order (and pay for) from the UK. Maybe they saw this and wanted to reward my slavish long-time loyalty. Maybe they missed all of my ranting after the AB InBev shipping debacle. Whatever the reason, they asked if they could send me 5 tasting samples to review from their That Boutique-y Whiskey Company bottling arm. I agreed. I rarely turn down free whisky.
Aside: I DO turn down free whisky, if it’s for a specific release that has a suggested retail much in excess of $150. Sometimes I’m weak. Sometimes I stand my ground. Either way I always give you my honest opinion, even if I got my grubby paws on the whisky for free. Believe me, or don’t, really I don’t care.
Note that That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottles are 500ml in the UK and other markets that allow that size. The few batches that reach the US are either 750ml or 375ml. Consider that when comparing prices from different retailers. A warning though: if you can find it it’s probably around £67.95 per 500ml which works out to something like $130 US per 750ml. Ouch. A 375ml bottle (for $65 ish) would be a much more affordable way to taste this whisky. Look out for the new tariffs, though, which could add a chunk to the price…
Thanks to Ros Frame at That Boutique-y Whisky Company Dram Club for the review sample!
Nose: Almost phenolic – a ghost of peat that isn’t there. Fresh laundry. Lavender flowers. Dry white wine. As it rests, the florals evolve into rose, honeysuckle, and a host of flowers that I’m not qualified to name. The dram also picks up a bready or yeasty note, a waxy citrus oil reminiscent of Clynelish , and something sweet like melting ice cream.
Palate: Syrupy body. Sweet at first! A surprise since the aroma was so dry. It doesn’t stay sweet for long: definitely a hint of peat. Earthy but not quite fungal. Very low tongue burn considering the ABV. Rosewater, white peppercorn.
Finish: Medium length. Slightly bitter, with bitter aromatics like gentian (think cocktail bitters) and some charcoal. Not many of the aroma or palate notes make it through. Fades slowly, but doesn’t evolve.
With Water: A few drops of water open up some citrus aromas – orange peel chiefly – and they make the palate softer and silkier in texture. There may be some new fruit notes – dried pear? But they are muddy and hard to decipher. Water optional.
Overall: This one is kind of all over the place. The peat notes are unexpected, and they actually provide a nice earthy contrast to the typical light-and-airy Benrinnes style. Benrinnes does not use peated malt, so I’m guessing that the process water must pick some up along the way. Unfortunately, the aroma is the best part of this whisky – I wish those aromatics carried forward through the finish. I feel that the price is too high, so I would be much happier to buy this in a 375ml format, but not for any more than the UK-equivalent price of $65. Still, 17 year-old single malt is not readily available in today’s market for less than $150, so I probably shouldn’t complain.