...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Benrinnes 21 year old 1992, Special Release 2014

Diving for Pearls is short on Benrinnes posts because I've rarely seen bottlings that interested me, stores (when they did ship) offer few Benrinnes samples, and my bottle splitting buddies rarely have Benrinnesses open. But I do have two reviews of this quirky Speyside malt planned for this week, with both whiskies resulting from the distillery's now retired idiosyncratic ~3x distillation process.

Diageo released today's sherry cask Benrinnes as part of their Special Releases set back in 2014. And despite positive reviews, it can still be easily found via online European retailers seven years later. I'm curious why a limited edition dark-hued sherried Speysider is still hanging around. Is it the price? Is it the lack of name recognition? Or am I about to find out?

Distillery: Benrinnes
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Ownership: Diageo
Range: Special Releases
Age: 21 years (1992 - 2014)
Maturation: sherry casks
Outturn: 2,892 bottles
Bottling date: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 56.9%
(from a bottle split)


The nose begins with dark chocolate, steel wool, cooper and burnt things (like hay and hair). There's a bit of a funky Loch Lomond-style garbage note in the background, along with toasted oak and toffee. (That was a party-in-a-glass right there.)

The palate is heavy, ashy and peppery, devoid of sweetness. Notes of bitter nuts, bay leaves, dried rosemary, leather and metal build with time.

The ash and metal continue into the finish, with quieter notes of rosemary, mint leaves and tangy chiles developing with time.

I think this needs to be diluted.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv

More approachable now, the nose shows mint, cherries, saline and fudge at the start. It gets beach-like with time, yet always holds onto that burnt note.

The palate gets bitterer and more tannic, but not terribly so. Sugar and minerals provide some angles.

Meanwhile, the finish gets milder, less ashy. It's gently sweet and mineral with a little bit of charred corn.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv

Don't do it. Just don't.


Easy to admire but difficult to enjoy, this Benrinnes is far from what anyone would consider a generic sherried Speysider. It provides a challenging drinking experience, and requires concentration and struggle, perhaps like working through some quadrants of avant-garde jazz. Just don't add too much water (to the whisky, not the jazz) because the bitter oak takes over entirely. Fight it out at full volume first.

Availability - It's still around, mostly in Europe
Pricing - $350 to $500
Rating - 85 (ignore this score)