BenRiach, the “twin” distillery of Longmorn that Glenlivet Distillers very much wanted to use to produce peat malt as well, has recently revolutionised its core range, which we reviewed here and here. A much-needed makeover, and if you’re not convinced, I invite you to take a look at the “archive” section of the website: if you scroll down through the dozens of expressions with Latin names (Authenticus, Septendecim, Importanticus fumosus…), you risk carpal tunnel. In the army of variations on the theme, the flamboyant label of this Birnie Moss, named after the local moor, stood out for its ugliness. “‘Intensely peaty’ at 35ppm, it’s a NAS and went out of production in 2018. So we’re only three years late, nothing compared to the eons.
N: the alcohol is well integrated, never excessive. Not easy when the spirit is so young. And here it certainly is: unripe pears and candied lemon, very acidic, with a hint of white wine. The overall effect is like dropping ashes into a glass of Chardonnay, but decidedly less disgusting. The peat, as is often the case with BenRiach, is very rich, acrid and smog-soaked.
P: very basic and simple, but undoubtedly pleasant. Still acrid and aggressive peat, with smoggy and aggressive smoke growing. Next to it is a pronounced sweetness consistent with the nose, with more lemon, candied fruit and pear. Vanilla and a little barley sweetness, or rather: Rossana candy. Simple, mind you, but never blunt or wrong, even if the aftertaste reminds a sort of schnapps.
F: long and acrid, all on the burnt side and a pleasant yet anonymous vanilla.
We’re not here to sell pots and pans and pass off Sohpie Kinsella as Jane Austen: it’s not a monster of complexity and it’s a binary whisky, but if we think that it originally cost just under €40, well, we can only promote it. It looks like a basic Caol Ila without the sea and more burnt – I mean, maybe it doesn’t look like a Caol Ila and Magritte’s pipe was a pipe indeed. 82/100.
Recommended soundtrack: Goran Bregovic & his wedding and funeral orchestra – Gas, gas