...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, June 14, 2019

BenRiach 12 year old Sherry Wood

The third Ben!

I cannot say I've enjoyed the Billy Walker-distilled Benriach single malts I've tried up to this point. But I am curious to see what happens when Walker takes a Seagram/Chivas-distilled release, then updates it with his own whisky. Of course, Brown-Forman is blending it now, but the spirit and the casks are Walker Era. At the very least this 12 year old Sherry Wood has a good presentation: 46%abv, no chill-filtration and no added colorant.

According to the official website, the whisky was matured in sherry casks and then finished in sherry casks. Yo Dawg, I heard you like sherry.

Distillery: BenRiach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company (now owned by Brown-Forman)
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Age: at least 12 years
Maturation: "full sherry cask maturation, combined with Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry cask finishing"
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colored? No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose begins with an amusing combination of earth, leather shoes and Fruit Loops. Then it transitions to dried cherries, grapefruit and floral perfume. The palate leads with fizzy cream soda and ginger beer notes. Then there's vanilla bean, tart citrus, almond cookies and brown sugar. With time it develops toasted oak and savory notes. Though alcohol is the longest lasting element of the sweet finish, there are small notes of tart citrus and vanilla.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes fruitier at this strength. Peaches, brown sugar and cinnamon (sort of a crumble). Familiar raisin and prune sherry cask notes. Orange oil and barley. The palate's sweetness calms down, and is met by a soft bitter note. It's maltier and has a toffee note. Less vanilla, though the cream soda remains. A mineral note sneaks in, providing extra depth. The finish is less sweet and less hot. Minerals, oranges, raisins and cream soda.

I was reluctant to add water this 12yo at first. It wasn't nearly as hot as Ralfy had said in his review. But I had 2 ounces of the stuff on hand, so what the heck. And it turned out to be a good decision, because the palate and finish improve considerably at 40%abv.

This brings to mind the current Tamdhu 10yo. They're different whiskies, but they both swim very well and are good alternative options to the usual sherried malts. The liquid presentation is sexier here, but Tamdhu has the prettier bottle. Though the Tamdhu is $5-$10 more expensive, they're parked in the same price range as Macallan 12, Glendronach 12 and Glenfarclas 12.

The thing that surprised me the most about BenRiach 12 year old Sherry Wood is that its quality matched that of this week's cask strength Ben Nevis and Benromach, and actually topped them at comparable ABVs, which is comforting because I can actually find this whisky in the United States.

Availability - Many whisky retailers around the world
Pricing - $50-$65 in US, Japan and Europe
Rating - 86 (with water)