December 2015 Whisky of the Month:
Exclusively imported to Australia for the Club, this was some of the last remaining BenRiach 15 Year Old Tawny Port Wood Finish in the world. Join The Club now for exclusive access to more exciting drams like this each month and great member perks.
Country of Origin:
To quote Jim Murray:
“It was with delight, while sworn to secrecy, that I witnessed BenRiach gaining it’s independence, when a team led by the experienced and infectiously enthusiastic Billy Walker acquired the Distillery. This independence will allow BenRiach to unlock it’s secrets and bring it’s fine and surprising malts, officially to the market in their natural state for the first time. There cannot be a single true lover of whisky who will not rejoice because of it.”
The BenRiach (meaning ‘speckled mountain‘) Distillery has had an interesting start to say the least. It was established in 1898 by John Duff, who had set up the famous Longmorn Distillery five years prior. The two distilleries were joined by a private railroad on which ‘The Puggy’, a steam locomotive, used to transport coal, barley, peat and barrels. A fantastic set up by all accounts in the golden years of whisky making, but sadly the BenRiach’s fortunes were very short lived. You see BenRiach was just one of at least 33 Scottish distilleries established in the industry boom of the late 1890s to cater for consumers’ ever-growing thirst for the golden nectar, 21 of which were also in Speyside… 100 points if you can guess what happened next… Yes, it all comes crashing down in 1899 when Pattison’s, one of the major buyers at the time, went into liquidation in what is now known as ‘The Pattinson Whisky Crisis’. An all-too-familiar tale of boom and bust.
Thus John Duff was forced to sell his distilleries in the first of a long chain of successive BenRiach acquisitions through it’s aptly speckled history, and the Longmorn Distillery Co Ltd bought BenRiach in 1900. Longmorn shut the stills but continued to use BenRiach’s maltings. Glenlivet Distillers Ltd then bought BenRiach in 1965 and started producing sprit again, only to sell to Seagrams in 1977. And so it continued, as a second set of stills was added in 1985 and growth ensued up to the point Seagrams was acquired by Pernod Ricard in 2001 and the distillery incredibly wound back operations to just three months of the year.
However, come 2004 the tables finally turned, making whisky history, when to the delight of Jim Murray and others the distillery was acquired by an independent consortium led by industry legend Billy Walker and backed by whisky mad South Africans Wayne Kieswetter and Geoff Bell. The BenRiach Distillery Company Limited was formed and at long last BenRiach won it’s independence! Not keen to sit around, the guys have turned BenRiach into a bit of cult distillery and expanded their portfolio in 2008 with the acquisition of the Glendronach distillery followed by the Glenglassaugh distillery in March 2013.
About BenRiach single malt whisky:
BenRiach has become famous for it’s incredibly wide range of whiskies and is one of the only distilleries in Scotland to still do it’s own floor maltings, giving it the ability to produce both peated and unpeated malts. A production capacity of 2,800,000 litres means that we all have a hell of a lot of whisky to drink before the lads at BenRiach have to worry about production issues. The new management didn’t waste any time in getting things cranking again, and upon purchasing the distillery, Billy Walker got the stills working within the year, redesigned the labels and launched their flagship range of 12, 16 and 20 year old single malts.
This range best captures the smooth, complex, full flavoured character traditionally associated with the Speyside region. All have elegant full taste and aroma that captures fruity floral notes, with overtones of honey, vanilla, spices, toffee and apples.
The core range has been augmented over the years to include an ever-increasing number of special and curious releases that has earned BenRiach its cult status amongst serious malt enthusiasts. October’s whisky comes from the highly acclaimed Wood Finish range. These whiskies are unpeated and are originally matured in American oak casks before being finished in a wide range of casks including Pedro Ximenez, Madiera, Dark Rum, Tawny Port, Claret, Burgundy, Rioja and Sherry Matured.
Only 340 cases of the Tawny Port Wood Finish were made and due to the scarcity and high cost of Tawny Port casks, sadly there are no plans to repeat it – good thing we got our hands on these!
Age on release:
The BenRiach 15 Year Old Tawny Port is matured in the traditional style in American oak bourbon casks and is then ‘finished’ in aged Tawny Port hogsheads, sourced from the Douro region in the north of Portugal. Finishing means that whisky is transferred from one cask type to another for the final period of its maturation. The purpose of finishing is to allow the new cask to add another layer of flavour to the spirit. In this case the Port hogshead provides a delightful mix of butterscotch, peaches and sultanas and a beautiful layered, intense sweetness to the malt.
BenRiach quick facts
Place of origin: By Elgin, Morayshire, IV30 8SJ, Scotland, United Kingdom
Water source: Burnside Springs
Number of stills: 2 wash and 2 spirit
Capacity: 2,800,000 litres of alcohol per annum
Nose: Crème brulée, honey, cinnamon and coconut in harmony with rich port notes and oak wood
Palate: Butterscotch, herbs, cinnamon, peaches and sultanas, infused with rich port and oak wood notes
Finish: Long, with a sustained gracefulness – the perfect end of night dram
Pecan, almond or walnut tarts and a traditional cheese platter