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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mathilda Malt Report: BenRiach 35 year old

As you may have heard, Billy Walker (a scientician) just made an absolute fortune by selling the Benriach Distillery Company to Brown Forman.  Some of us had a studied thoughtful response to the news.

While you may feel differently, I find all of Brown Forman's American whiskies to be especially foul.  All of them.  Okay, some of the Old Forester Birthday Bourbons and the occasional JD Single Barrels are drinkable, but those are the only exceptions.  Their brands' regular ranges are bad enough to make me nauseous while typing this.  Meanwhile, I really like Benriach and Glendronach.  So, my hope is that Brown Forman leaves a good thing alone.  Then there's my unsupported conspiracy theory that Walker pulled a Bruichladdich and got out when aged supply started running low.  In any case, Brown Forman finally got back into the Scotch game just when whisky needed more corporate futzing.

One little treat Billy Walker & Company did make before departing was the 35 year old BenRiach.  OC Scotch Club bought a bottle for our April event.  I was unable to attend the shindig, but the man of the hour, Andy, saved me a sample.

Distillery: BenRiach
Ownership at time of distillation: Glenlivet Distillers Ltd / Seagrams Distillers
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Age: at least 35 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 42.5%

Its color is dark gold.  There are rich bourbon notes in the nose, as in actual bourbon, like Elijah Craig and Blanton's.  Then cream puffs and vanilla pudding.  Lime juice, fresh cherries, and candy canes.  Honeydew and watermelon rind.  With time it focuses on the melon notes, with hints of flower blossoms and green tea.  There's also something slightly earthy/smoky in the far background.  Baskets of fresh peaches in the palate, along with watermelon rind and tangy limes.  Butterscotch, salted caramel, and vanilla beans.  With 40+ minutes in the glass, it develops a fizzy ginger beer note, as well as agave nectar and a hint of hay.  More peaches in the finish. Peach nectar, peach candy, summer peaches.  Then vanilla bean, agave nectar, black pepper, and a bit of tannin.

Yum.  Without a single rough or troubling note, this whisky is a glass full of hugs.  Supposedly there are sherry casks in the mix, but I'm mostly getting good American oak and well-matured spirit.  The fruits and flowers and desserts notes are what I imagine folks would call "Classic Speyside".  Andy and I both thought this was going to be momentous, judging by the Malt Maniacs' reviews.  It turned out to be very good, just not momentous.  Andy gave it a B+ and I'm having a hard time putting it in A- territory.  The finish is on the shorter side and the palate loses steam once the peaches fade out.  Or maybe I'm just naughty and expect more than hugs in return for a A- grade.

Availability - European specialty retailers
Pricing - $500-$650
Rating - 89