BenRiach….lots of expressions or a bit confused?

I’m catching up with the articles I have written for my local paper; here is another one, and this time it is about BenRiach…….

BenRiach for Northern Scot

Variety is the order of the day at BenRiach Distillery; various cask finishes, phenol levels, strengths and ages give rise to many different expression of this single malt. I was chatting recently to the owner of the Whisky Shop in Dufftown and he said that he was currently stocking 34 different expressions from BenRiach. The company owner was asked at one point why he was experimenting so much with casks and finishes; he answered, “Because I can”.

So, if peated whisky is your tipple you’ll find it here, if a strong sherry cask finish is your favourite there will be one for you, and there are American oak expressions to keep me happy. The company are eagerly looking for new and varied markets, developing whiskies aimed at the younger age group and also thinking about tastes suitable for ladies.

The history of the distillery is also fascinating. It was opened in 1898, but closed down only two years later as a result of the Pattison Crash. The distillery lay closed until 1965 when it started production again. Ownership has changed hands a couple of times, but in 2004 it was taken into private ownership and has never looked back. It is now part of the BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd, along with its sister sites, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh.

In the company stable this is a site based upon the use of bourbon casks. The light spirit is quick to mature and can therefore be influenced by different cask finishes. There is a wonderful freshness and smoothness to the distillery character that can be found in all the samples, expressed to the best in the Classic range. I think that this distillery spirit speaks for itself, with the peaty and cask finish examples that I savoured not really adding much to my enjoyment.

My nosing and tasting experience of BenRiach was wide and varied, thanks to the generous supply of samples from the site. I sampled the 16 and 20 year old from the Classic range, Curiositas and Septendecim from the Peated Range, Pedro Ximenez Sherry from the Wood Finish Expressions and Solstice from the Peated Finish range.


The 16 year old Classic was superb, I cannot compliment it highly enough. The nose of honey, vanilla and banana was followed by addition of coconut, sweetness, toffee and caramel on the palette. Fruity and fresh would be good descriptors. The finish was very smooth and satisfying, although not very long. Age is not always an indicator of improvement, with the 20 year old, while being very nice, not being superior to the 16 year old. But it was light and floral, with toffee sweetness that was enjoyable, but in my opinion not as good value to the 16 year old when prices are compared.

The peaty expressions were not to my taste, having a more medicinal rather than smoky phenol character when compared to my beloved Talisker. If you prefer a Laphroaig style flavour though these whiskies will probably be right up your street. The 15 year old Pedro Ximenex Sherry finish was very nice having a bit more of a sherry influence with dried fruits and spice, coming alongside the fruit and freshness of the distillery character; a very pleasant combination.

Recommendation of the Month

The 16 year old Classic BenRiach is a delightfully smooth expression full of aroma and flavour, showing off the distillery character at its best. It can be purchased in the distillery shop, after a tour; tours need to be booked in advance and can be arranged by phoning 01343 862888. This product can also be found at various outlets in the area such as The Whisky Shop in Dufftown or Gordon and MacPhail in Elgin.

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