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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Pre-Birthday Whisky: Benriach 32 year old 1979 Adelphi

Twenty-seven months ago, I led a private whisky event that was more luxurious than anything I'll probably host in the future. (Unless I go full nihilist and just start opening up all my gems in one night.) Here's that placemat, once again:
I've reviewed 9 of the 12 whiskies from that event. Today I'll do the 10th, a Benriach that may have been my favorite of the set when I bottled little samples for myself the next morning.

For the official sample tasting (last night), I paired it with this official 19 year old single cask BenRiach. That teenager did not make for a good sparring partner since it had mutated into a oaky mess over the past three years. Or was it always an oaky mess? The Benriach of real interest, the 32 year old, was a much different character, curious in its own way.

Distillery: Benriach
Ownership: Brown-Forman
Independent Bottler: Adelphi
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Age: 26 years old (1979 - 2012)
Maturation: see concluding section below
Outturn: see concluding section below
Cask #: 515
Alcohol by Volume: 48.4%

Its color is 1st-fill-sherry-cask dark. But it's supposedly not a 1st fill sherry cask. The delicate nose takes a while to lift off. First it's very bready and nutty. Then there's an earth and orange combo, followed by hints of anise, menthol, pine sap and rye seeds. The palate is more aggressive. Fresh mint, fresh ginger and tangy limes. Light on the oak and sweets. A few moments of incense. The finish holds onto the mint and limes. Aromatic oak spices and a puff of smoke. Decent length.

DILUTED TO 46%abv, or 1/3tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Add just a little bit of water......and it's a different whisky. Golden raisins, mango, raspberry fruit leather and applesauce on the nose. The palate is creamier, saltier. But also kinda sherried, with lots of dried fruit and nuts. The ginger and limes have receded. Some grassy and herbal notes sneak in. Now the finish reads like a sherry cask. Dried berries, berry jam, salt and savory herbs.

Let us (I am us) talk about this cask. Whiskybase says it's "Ex-Bourbon American Oak Barrel". One WB reviewer says it's a refill. The other WB reviewer says it's very active. Meanwhile, if I'd tasted the lightly diluted version blind, I'd have thought it was from a refill sherry cask. Meanwhile, WB lists its outturn at 151 bottles, and the reviewers list it as 78 and 171 bottles. At least the 78 count would make sense for a split cask, but, um, I have no idea how many actual bottles came out of this "barrel".

Ignoring all that, I'm happy to say the whisky is good. Good, but not as superlative as I'd anticipated or remembered. Its nose is the most fun, with or without water. The palate and finish are fine, but (other than the incense notes) there's nothing really unique going on. That's significant because the palate has the bigger punch, while the nose needs to be teased out. But but but it's still a quality whisky, especially since its oak is much more under control than just about every much-younger modern whisky thing around.

Availability - ???
Pricing - Binny's had it on closeout for $300-ish two years ago
Rating - 87

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