...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Single Malt Report: BenRiach Taste Off, Part 2 (Peated)

(click here for Part 1)

Benriach distillery opened in 1898, then was promptly mothballed in 1900.  Though the distillery did not reopen for 65 years, barley malting continued on site.  The malt was then transported to the neighboring Longmorn Distillery via a quarter-mile track.  After The Glenlivet Distillers reopened the stills in 1965, an interesting experiment began in 1972.  While the majority of Speyside distilleries were swapping their old peat smoke drying methods for coal smoke, in order to cater to export countries' palates, Benriach started peat smoke drying a small portion of their malt in 1972.  This peating (at a Laphroaig-like level of 35-38pm) continued until the maltings were closed in 1999.

After The BenRiach Distillery Company bought the distillery in 2004, they promptly started bottling some of the large quantities of stock within the same year.  Among the first releases was the 10 year old Curiositas, a peated single malt.  In 2005, they added the 21 year old Authenticas to the range.

Curiositas was bottled more regularly and in greater numbers due to the available mature whisky on hand.  Authenticas had a more limited release, 4800 bottles per year.  In 2012, the 21 year was replaced by a 25 year.

The 21yr Authenticas bottles are still available throughout the US, but I doubt they'll be around for much more than another year or two.  The 25yr doesn't appear to have reached our shores yet, but looks to be only $40 more.  And by "only", I mean this 25-year peated official bottling sells for about the same as Glenfiddich 21yr, Glenlivet 21yr, or Macallan 18yr.
BOOM! Bottle shot.
Financials aside, the old 21yr Authenticas was in my Classic and Peated BenRiach 4-pack, along with the Curiositas.  The actual maturation info for these two have been harder to come by than the unpeated BenRiachs, so I'm going to guess that part of their data below.



DistilleryBenRiach
Ownership: The BenRiach Distillery Company
Age: minimum 10 years
Bottled in: 2008
Maturation: possibly ex-bourbon casks (some first-fill)
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

NEAT:
The color is a light amber, thus light on fancy oak and light on caramel colorant.  The nose leads with considerable menthol, followed by light peat smoke.  A bit of hamminess too.  Mint.  Lots of vanilla.  Getting oakier with time.  Actually, it smells a lot like a bag of Halloween candy -- you know: corn syrup, milk chocolate, Red 5, plastic wrappers and all -- yet peated.  Wood smoke on the palate.  Sweets first, then peat, then heat.  Vanilla, cigar tobacco, cinnamon candy, honey, California Chardonnay.  Nice lengthy finish, mostly peat and that cigar tobacco note.  Some sweetness edges in along with a bit of cinnamon.

WATER ADDED:
On the nose, fresh baked bread, manure, and apple skins (what a combo!).  The palate and finish are earthy but also very sweet.  Lots of sugar, vanilla, and veggie peat.



DistilleryBenRiach
Ownership: The BenRiach Distillery Company
Age: minimum 21 years
Bottled in: 2008
Maturation: possibly ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (likely some first-fill sherry)
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

Okay, I'm going to spoil it here.  THIS was the highlight of the pack.  Not because it's the oldest.  Not because it's no longer in the regular rotation.  It's because.  Well, you'll see.

NEAT:
The color is much darker, like penny copper.  The nose carries that hint of menthol.  The peat is more mossy than smoky.  There's both a pool note and a ocean note.  It's a little spicy.  Some stone fruits (both fresh and dried).  And......is that weed?  Let's take a sip and test that palate......SO MUCH WEED! I almost choked on the first sip.  It's all TCP and THC.  Okay and probably some fruit juices, a little sherry, grass (as in lawn), and mint.  The finish: weed, peat, sugar.  Gets sweeter with time.

WATER ADDED:
The nose: a joint and a glass of sherry.  The palate is mostly gentle peat smoke, along with some highlights of hay, soil, bandages, and very sweet chocolate.  It finishes oceanic and much drier on the tongue.  Cotton-mouth, perhaps?



The Winner???
NOSE -- 21yr, by a nose
PALATE -- 21yr
FINISH -- 21yr, though it's close
OVERALL -- 21yr

The 10yr Curiositas is good alternative to Laphroaig 10.  The iodine and medicinal characteristics are dialed down, so the peat experience feels a little softer, but there's still a lot of body and oompf thanks to the higher ABV.  It won't beat every Islay out there but can play on the same field.  Tim at Scotch and Ice Cream had a lot of nice things to say about it a couple weeks ago.  Sku of Recent Eats is a fan of it as well.

The 21yr Authenticas wins the day, for me, because it is so, shall we say, unique?  It has garnered great reviews, though I appear to be alone in finding a dime bag in every sip.  Well, to each his own.  And to my own, this ain't schwag.  Though, I wouldn't know anything about that.

10 YEAR CURIOSITAS
Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - $50-$60 (US)
Rating - 82

21 YEAR AUTHENTICAS
Availability - Fewer and fewer liquor specialists
Pricing - $120-$150 (US)
Rating - 89

14 comments:

  1. Woah... Dude... (okay enough fake stoner talk), I don't think I've ever seen marijuana as a tasting note before. You sure it wasn't some other herbal note? Still weed is certainly a great more interesting than saying herbal.

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    1. Hey Eric, just as I was reading your comment this morning, some serious ganja smoke drifted down from the apartment I was walking by on the way to work. (Ah, Hollywood.) It allowed me a moment to deconstruct that specific Authenticas note.

      I guess if one was to take a bundle of savory herbs (including thyme and rosemary), mix them with a tiny bit of tar, add some hay and a heap of warm oregano, then roll that all up into a spliff and smoke it, that would come close to approximating my Authenticas experience.

      But, I'm going to stick with the weed descriptor for now. I spent a loooooong time with that dram in amused disbelief.

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    2. A thought struck me earlier... why can't a distillery dry some malted barley with pot (as an experiment of course)? It's going to be hellishly expensive and you would be breaking a few laws but the idea sounds pretty cool.

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    3. Oh, and I'd like to add that I'm not being serious (I hope) so if a distillery gets caught using my idea, I will claim that I was joking.

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    4. I once heard that some of the large beer companies were working on pot infused beer, prepping themselves for the theoretical day that the green is legalized nationwide. I don't actually believe that for a second, but I really feel like spreading that rumor.

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  2. I wonder how these two drams compare to the BenRiach 16yo Sauternes Finish. I just had the sample you gave me, and I found it smoky and sweet, but not terribly engaging - like a peated version of Lasanta. I have a couple different bottles of BenRiach awaiting deployment, including a Septendecim (also peaty), and the one bottled by Cask Strength & Carry On.

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    1. I'll bet that Septendecim will be good stuff. And congrats on picking up one of the Cask Strength bottlings! In hindsight, I like the 16yr Sauternes less and less. Thought maybe it was because I wasn't big on wine finishes. Their base malt seems decent to me, but maybe they're covering up some lesser stock?

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    2. Maybe you and I are not big on Sauternes finishes, after all the base spirit of Nectar d'Or is very good too (that's what I meant previously, not Lasanta!). They are a little lazy, aren't they? Let's make it sweet, who doesn't like sweet?

      I'm getting more and more away from wine finishes; I had another taste of my Bushmills 21yo and of the Tyronnell 10yo, both of them with a Madeira finish, and they were bordering on repulsive. There is something to not mixing grapes and grains...

      I'll be happy to share those BenRiachs, I have high expectations. There is a third bottle as well - 12yo Heredotus (or is it Xeredotus?).

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    3. Yeah, I'm with you on the Sauternes (or most sweet wine) finish issue. Maybe it's a trust thing with me. I keep wondering, what are they trying to hide......?

      I think it's Heredotus, though Xeredotus would be more playful and fun. Why are they naming a PX finished peated whisky after the Father of History? Naming quirks aside, I haven't been disappointed by any of their peat malt yet. I'll be curious to know what you think.

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    4. No, they know their Latin. That would be from Jerez/Xerez/Sherry. The dude you're alluding to is HerOdotus. It threw me off, too - so mission accomplished for them. On the other hand, it seems like they called some recent 15yo release Pedro Xim*i*nez, so go figure...

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  3. Figured this was the best place to mention this but K&L has the Benriach 12 Horizons which is triple distilled (the bottles weren't even in their system when I spotted them on the shelf). Now this is going to be interesting considering triple distillation is decidedly rare enough in Speyside. Now I would also love to taste the triple distilled components of Mortlach and Benrinnes.

    Only one warning sigh though, this was finished in ex-Oloroso casks so this might have an over-powering sherry component like Lasanta but I have faith in Benriach that the finishing was kept to a minimum (I think the previous editions were all ex-bourbon maturation). Also rather pricey ($82) for a 12 year old.

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    1. It's interesting they doubled the price of the 12yo for the expense of one more round of distillation. I actually like the regular 12yo quite a bit, though I wouldn't doubt the Horizons would be considerably different with the 3x and the finish. BenRiach does great stuff but a 100% premium? If anyone has tried the Horizons please let us know what you think!

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    2. I thought Ralfy reviewed one of the earlier batches.
      http://youtu.be/MEcz7qLmUVo

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    3. He makes it sound like a lot of fun. And it's at 100 proof. Still that price is wee bit steep for me.

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