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.
Located in north Speyside on the site of the old Riach farm, the he made the most of the mineral-rich waters of the Burnside Springs, deep underground below the distillery.
BenRiach and Longmorn 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 spirit 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 to the delight of many, making whisky history, as 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 GlenDdronach distillery followed by the Glenglassaugh distillery in March 2013.
Under Walker's watch, BenRiach continued their long-standing tradition of producing three styles - both peated and unpeated whisky (one of just a handful of Speyside distilleries to do so), as well as triple distilled whisky. We soon saw a wide range from BenRiach including a number of peated releases with names like Curiositas, Importanticus Fumosus, Septendecim and Authenticus.
In 2015, The BenRiach Distillery Company won the Global Whisky Distiller of the Year at the Icons of Whisky Awards, a win that no doubt caught the attention of American giants Brown-Forman, who scooped the company up the following year. This ushered in a new era as these revered distilleries came under the care of another whisky legend, Dr Rachel Barrie.
The distillery showed off a new look in late 2020, with a complete rebrand taking place including a new logo, dropping the capital R from "BenRiach", new bottle and label designs, and a few tweaks to the lineup. In keeping with the modern new look, the naming convention has been simplified, with the unsusual Latinate names gone. BenRiach Curiositas is now Benriach The Smoky Ten, for example. The 12 Year Old has a new flavour profile and is now called Benriach The Original Twelve, and has been joined by a new expression in the range, Benriach The Smoky Twelve.
Putting their eclectic collection of casks from around the world to good use, Dr Rachel Barrie and the team continue to produce some of the richest, most multi-layered whiskies in Speyside.