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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Single Malt Report: BenRiach Importanticus Fumosus

In May 2007, BenRiach released three 12 year old peated whiskies, each finished in a different type of cask, each with its own portmanteau faux Latin name: Arumaticas Fumosus (Jamaican Rum), Heredotus Fumosus (Pedro Ximenez sherry), and Importanticus Fumosus (Port).  In July 2008, a fourth product was added to this range Maderensis Fumosus (Madeira).  Their website is especially cute when it says that these names "literally" translate over, like Importanticus Fumosus "literally" means smoky port.  It doesn't, but it's totes hilarious from top to bottom because Latin, LOL.

The thing is, Latin-ish names aside, peated BenRiach is usually pretty good.  And I really like the Arumaticus Fumosus.  Jordan from Chemistry of the Cocktail hooked me up samples of another two of the finished peaties via a sample swap earlier this year.  Sadly it appears as if the Fumosi have mostly vanished from the shelves.  Their production was limited from the start, as was the outturn of their 18 year old replacements.  So, in order to stay consistent in my approach, I will now review a whisky that is on its way out.

Ownership: The BenRiach Distillery Company
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon casks for most of its life, then finished in "Aged Tawny Port Hogsheads"
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colored? No
Sample obtained via swap. Thanks to Jordan D.!

Its color is that of a dessert wine gold.  The nose starts off with a tarry rubberband peat with big whiffs of prune.  There's a funky rummy note, along with rotting apples and overripe nectarines.  "Curiously port-y" was my note before I realized that this one was the port finished whisky, for some reason I thought this was the sherried one.  After some time there's a minor barn note and a berry trifle of sorts.  The palate has an ashy peat that shows up at the beginning and end, though disappears in the middle.  That space is filled with cherry candy.  It's sweet right up to the point of too much without toppling over.  There's citrus custard, black pepper, and tart berries.  An small bitter bite that feels more woody than herbal.  Peat and mixed berry jam in the sweet finish.  Orange and lime peels.  That woody bitterness.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
Less peat in the nose, but more berries.  Tarter apples.  Definitely desserty.  Like the nose, the mild palate is short on peat, but tall on berries.  There's oak, wine, bitterness.  The finish is also winier than when neat.  Sugary berries, tart limes, very little peat.

While this an okay whisky -- a league above Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, though that's not saying much -- it never registers as particularly impressive.  The cask finish doesn't work as well as the rum does in Arumaticas Fumosus.  Sometimes it's just sweet and winey, sometimes that bitter oak element sneaks in.  It's better to sniff than to sip, but the palate isn't really a disaster.  I think BenRiach is starting with some good stuff pre-finish, which helps prevent a whisky slurry in the end.

As mentioned earlier, this one has become difficult to find.  If you're determined to locate it, I suggest trying European retailers.  There are more bottles of it on that continent and they tend to be $10-20 cheaper than here.  But if you're looking for a great port-matured peated whisky (which is also nearly impossible to find), I recommend Ballechin Batch 3.

Availability - Happy hunting
Pricing - $70-$80
Rating - 81