We promised it last week, here it is: here comes the review of the second pair of new BenRiach, always 10 and 12 years old but this time peaty – because yes, we are in the heart of Speyside but peat is back in fashion here too, and in honour of the real BenRiach it has been distilling peat malt for several years already, dividing the production equally between peated and unpeated. Let’s taste!
BENRIACH ‘SMOKY’ 10 YO (2020, OB, 46%)
The composition of the barrels is particularly curious: it is a mix of ex-Jamaican rum, virgin oak and ex-Bourbon barrels.
N: a very pleasant peaty sugared almond: this is the first impression. There is a herbaceous and balsamic proportion, towards the eucalyptus. Very ripe fruit, so ripe that it becomes almost… too much: fruit salad, when you forget it in the fridge for a while, just before it starts to ferment. Pear in syrup, plane tree, green banana. For the rest, a deep, sugary sweetness of vanilla, almond paste, icing sugar – the sweetness is full, not crunchy. The peat is green, very acrid and vegetable: not very intense and suffocating, but pungent, almost acidic, reminiscent of smoky shrubs.
P: very pleasant, what a nice surprise. The peat here is beautifully exuberant and balanced, and the main concept that comes to mind is a fresh balance. Simple maybe if dissected, but really very pleasant and centred. Ripe kiwi, intense peat smoke and a little less acrid than it seemed to the nose; jelly on fruit pastries; citrus fruit (bergamot in particular – but maybe there’s also something bordering on soapy). Here come the esters of rum, with some chemical and fruity notes that only in Jamaican rums we know how to recognize.
F: long, fresh and pleasant. Candied ginger, candied citrus fruits. Congratulations.
You’d kill a bottle of this without realizing it, that’s for sure. It is not a whisky of extreme complexity, but it has an atrociously dangerous drinkability. The contribution of the rum is excellent, which is there, you can feel but it doesn’t overwhelm and doesn’t devastate: 86/100. Pleasant, taut, crisp and crunchy.
BENRIACH ‘SMOKY’ 12 YO (2020, OB, 46%)
Ex-Marsala, ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry: this is the triad of barrels used for the ageing of this twelve-year-old kid.
N: more ‘seated’ than the first, and certainly darker. Hazelnuts, milk chocolate; it has a fairly distinct vinosity, which reminds us of something like… vin brûlé, or peaches cooked with wine. The nod to vin brûlé is also used to introduce spices, especially sweet, very present: cinnamon, cloves (or perhaps nutmeg?), of course vanilla. The peat remains similar, but the change in the background crushes it a bit on other colours – burnt dried fruit, acrid smoke. At times a note of raw material and wash appears, to be honest, not perfectly integrated.
P: still very drinkable, like the 10, although here the panorama changes – more welcoming but less tense. It remains sweeter, darker, with dried fruit, dried figs; the peat is darker, less “green” than the 10. Burnt hazelnuts, the vinosity appears and disappears like Christmas tree lights, but when it appears it does not always seem perfectly integrated. Peaches, again. Again a slightly soapy floral scent.
F: an acidic tip, still vinous. Long, light smoke, a bit of toasted wood (reminds of a… cooperage). It comes out a balsamic and fresh tip, not perfectly integrated.
It has something unresolved, perhaps: on the whole it seems to us less centred and a little more unconnected than 10 years ago, which made balance and coherence between the various phases a source of pride. This, as we have written, certainly seems sweeter but above all more ‘sitting’, less lively. It remains a pleasant drink, let’s be clear, but if we had to choose which one to drink, we would opt for the 10. 83/100. Both BenRiach are on sale online, among others, on Aquavitae.
Recommended soundtrack: The Blaze – Territory.