...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Single Malt Report: BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus

You'll find me bitching and moaning about whisky finishes plenty of times on this blog, but I have yet to meet a rum-finished whisky that wasn't at least entertaining.  BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus comes to the rum-finished arena from a different angle than others.  Firstly, it's peated.  This will be the first time I've tried a peated whisky finished in rum casks.  Secondly, BenRiach didn't utilize one-note sugary rum in those casks, instead they used an unspecified Jamaican rum.  Though my experience with Jamaican rum is limited, I highly recommend that folks with adventurous palates try a glass of Smith & Cross (neatly).  Smith & Cross is a bold estery beast, and I'm probably going need to review it some day.
Almost got the JJ Abrams lens flare on this one.
I obtained this BenRiach sample from Jordan from Chemistry of the Cocktail via a sample swap.  Jordan knows much more about rum than I do; his rum posts (especially this beginner's guide) are musts.  As per his recommendation, I got to know Smith & Cross a little bit before diving into Arumaticus Fumosus.

I've been looking forward to trying this whisky for some time.  I enjoy BenRiach's peated stuff, especially the 21 year old (whose review has made everyone think I'm Weedy McPotface), and have been very impressed with the cask work utilized for BenRiach and its mate GlenDronach (despite their occasional questionable label disclosure).  So, good peated malt meets quality casks......yes, please. 

Ownership: The BenRiach Distillery Company
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon casks for most of its life, then finished in Jamaican dark rum casks
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colored? No

Its color is amber with very little in the way of oaky (or e150a) gold.  The nose has a definite blast of rum, but it's not the super-desserty version one will find in Balvenie Caribbean Cask, rather something with a bit of an herbal spicy bite to it.  It's well integrated, leading right to the malt and peat moss.  There are notes of a floral vanilla simple syrup, cotton candy, lemon peel, honey, molasses, wood smoke, and dry soil.  It alternates between earthy and pretty.  The palate is well-layered too.  Peat→molasses→honey→lychee and fresh cherries.  Very earthy (again) yet also sugared.  A smaller note of fresh oranges shows up occasionally.  Peat, pepper, and bitter notes begin to grow with some oxidation time.  Lots of smoke and sweets in the finish, think honeyed peat.  A hint of salty olives merges with some citrus.  The smoke grows with time.

I added a little bit of water, then took an intermission to hang out with my little critter......who immediately ate my notes (she has good taste, obviously)...

And then she came for the cell phone...

Luckily, my wife came to save me before all was lost to The Appetite.

Now back to the whisky.

WITH WATER (approx. 40%abv)
The farm takes over in the nose; very Ledaigy in fact.  The floral notes have been stripped away, leaving us with a fireplace in a candy shop.  There's a burst of dijon and honey mustard notes in the palate.  There's also some sugar, honey, and peat moss.  The smoke note is very delicate, and there might be a hint of ham in there too.  A pleasant dryness lingers into the finish.  It's much milder now, all on mustard and peat.

Having high expectations met has become a rarity for me recently, but this whisky was as good as I'd hoped.  Its palate even garnered a "Wow" from my mouth.  For me, there isn't a single misstep in the whole package.  I aim to track down a full bottle for myself and perhaps will later indulge in further hyperbole if warranted.

Tracking down a bottle can be more challenging than one might expect of a BenRiach.  While there was a Arumaticus Fumosus release in the US in 2007, it was very limited since the first batch of this experiment was limited to 290 6-bottle cases worldwide.  There appears to have been another batch or two in 2012 so that leaves me hoping that they continue producing this whisky.

Availability - Some European specialty retailers
Pricing - $65-$85 (minus VAT, including shipping)
Rating - 89


  1. Wow, she's getting more and more beautiful! Love those chubby fingers!

    I remember having sampled the Arumaticus in parallel with the Heredotus, from MoM samples. I also found the Arumaticus sweet, with coconut and other caribbean spices. However, I liked the Heredotus better and subsequently bought a bottle. Which now you're inspiring me to want to open. It looks like there are only a few leftovers in stores from this peated (Fumosus) batch, in various corners of Europe, but a new edition can't be far behind. If I knew then what I know now about peaty whisky aged in port casks I'd have gone for the Importanticus as well.

    1. I wonder if the 2012 batch is distinctly different from the 2007 batch. Ditto the other Arumatici. After the enjoyment of this one, I'm definitely going to try the others.

    2. I just opened the Heredotus - 2007 according to the bottle code, I didn't know there was a later batch. It's a great whisky, one of the best of the year! I'd put it up there with the Laphroaig Cairdeas port cask and the Ballechins. Serious peat, farmy Ledaig-style, balanced with lots of sweetness and elegance from the sherry. This is textbook finishing, like Murray McDavid on a good day! I'd have bought a case if I opened this a couple years ago. Strength-wise it punches way above its class, you could easily take it for a 50%+ abv. Lovely reddish natural color, enhanced by the bottle label & design. 89-90 territory. As you can see, this is very in-tune with your own review of the Arumaticus (which, like I said, I liked less in MoM samples). I think you summed it up really well: "there isn't a single misstep in the whole package"! Benriach, please keep up the Fumosus please!

    3. That one sounds good too. Looks like you got that bottle at a good time because the US has been mostly swept clean of the Fumosi. It'll be interesting to see what happens to their peated releases once the new company's distillate starts coming of age.

  2. The whisky sounds quite intriguing, but I mostly stopped by to comment on the cuteness of your daughter. It's really getting out of control. I feel like we might be coming up to a cuteness singularity.

    1. Thank you. She is a wonder. And she's keeping me drinking.

    2. I hear that!

      Also, we all know Jordan is "Weedy McPotface" will all his "dank" sherry...

  3. My niece is already one and a half and she's been keeping the whole family on their toes this Thanksgiving. Imagine a tiny force of nature running everywhere. Since I've been drinking wine and beer during the holiday, I decided to open a Benriach 15 year old Dark Rum finish. Since it's not peated like the Arumaticus (who decides these names anyway?), the rum finish is a lot more apparent. Not surprisingly, the one whisky I will compare this to is the Balvenie Caribbean Cask.

    By the way, Benriach states on the label, "Natural Color", so there is no caramel added to the whisky.

    1. That's good news about the coloring. I like Caribbean Cask, so that sounds like good news about the unpeated Dark Rum Finish.

      I'm kinda terrified by the thought of Mathilda becoming mobile. I have the back of a 70-year-old, so chasing her down and catching her before she headbutts a table is not something I'm looking forward to. Luckily she mellowed out enough this year to just fling steamed carrots at my brother-in-law's happy dog.

    2. Michael, my niece loves riding on both of her parents' backs like a horse rider and one of her favorite words is "More". So I hope for the sake of your back that your daughter doesn't discover back riding...

      I think Benriach is using the same Jamaican dark rum casks for both expressions (since it would be cheaper and easier to source from one place). I think Benriach, like Balvenie, handles rum finishing very well but then again I like rum so any rum finishes get my attention. Currently I'm on the lookout for the rum finished Springbanks because I think I'm going to love that combination.

    3. Yeah, I'm not sure how well horsey is going to work at our home. Need to work on my core strength for about a year before I'm ready.

      Springbank did one official "Rum Wood" bottling: 16 years old, 8 in bourbons, 8 in rums. It was from several years back but there might be some bottles floating around at European retailers.