BenRiach 1994 Virgin Oak Single Cask

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 55.3% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
It takes a while to get over a bad initial meeting that can, literally, leave a bad taste in your mouth. For those of you read my reviews you probably know that my first encounter with a BenRiach was with a terrible 20 year old.

I can still recall the acrid taste in my mouth as I sipped it for the first time. I vowed never to try another BenRiach again. Of course, my forgiving nature (and reading countless good reviews of other BenRiachs) got the best of me and I gave in eventually.

In fact, trying to make up for lost time, I ended up on a BenRiach binge buying pretty much anything I could get my hands on. What I discovered was a solid Speyside distillery with a beautiful variety of spirits to choose from with almost all of them hitting an above average score in my books.

Like most seasoned whisky drinkers there’s something about single cask whiskies that holds a certain allure. Especially if they’re served at cask strength. I believe this version of whisky is the truest way of consuming the good stuff.

This particular BenRiach in my hands has been distilled in 1994 and put in 344 bottles in October 2013 at a cask strength of 55.3%.

Now this is what I don’t understand. The label on the bottle claims that it is a single cask whisky. But it also states that it is finished in Virgin American Oak (hogshead). Now to the best of my understanding a finish is when you take the whisky out of one cask and put it in another cask for a short period of time towards the end of it’s maturation phase.

So if that’s true this is technically not a single cask is it?

Oh, well. Who cares what the label says when the liquid inside is this good.

Nose: Dark honey. French beans. Caramel. Chocolate. Leather. Tobacco. Roasted cigar leaf. Maple syrup. Banana. Breakfast jam. Vanilla. Coconut. Almonds. Red berries. Gorgeous nose bursting with flavor. Love it! (24/25)

Palate: So creamy smooth. Banana. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Touch of oak. Quite sweet. That dark honey again. Plums. Raisins. Fig. Burnt toast. An honest reflection of the nose. (23/25)

Finish: Long. Jambolin. Salty. Spicy. (23/25)

Such a gorgeous whisky this. The complete package in my opinion. Lovely to nose and taste with the just the right balance of sweet and spicy. So glad I decided to forgive them.

Rating: 93

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BenRiach 25 Years Authenticus

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 46% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 23 | Palate: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23
Strength: 22 | Variety: 23 | Quality: 24 | Harmony: 24
Final Score: 92.5

Review
BenRiach and I did not have a very good first meeting. A Duty Free salesman decided to off-load a 20 year onto me back when I did not know my peat from my feet.

And let me tell you that was a vile drink. The oak had inflicted so much damage it was literally undrinkable. But this is not a BenRiach bash. Quite the opposite actually.

After a brief hiatus from this Speysider I decided to return and since then have had many a pleasant experience. The latest in this growing list of tastings is this 25 year old named Authenticus.

There’s literally no literature on the type of casks used to mature this spirit but I’m pretty sure it’s second-fill bourbon. Could be a vatting of sorts as well between first and re-fill. But I’m guessing at this point.

Regardless this is a very fine spirit which BenRiach claim to have peated ‘heavily’. After tasting so many Octomores and Port Charlottes heavy to me means something entirely different.

However, the peat is visibly there on the nose and palate so I’m going to guess between 18 – 25 ppm.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a chewy 46%

Nose: Peat. Fishnets. Citrus. Chocolate. Pink melon. Licorice. Hint of oak Wisp of smoke. Hardboiled sweets. Some type of flower. Could be lavender. Water chestnuts. The peat is sweet, fruity and mildly floral. I really like this nose. Reminds me of old school Ardbegs. Maybe not as heavily peated or as salty but walks a lovely line between sweet and peat. 23/25

Palate: Mild melons. Hardboiled sweets. Oak. Chocolate. Mint. Cinnamon. A hint of all spice. Nice controlled delivery and the texture is on point. No lethargy after spending 25 years cooped up in a barrel. Could easily pass off 10 years younger. In a good way. 23/25

Finish: Develops as you wait. Lots of big peaty smoke. 23/25

Balance: 23/25

Strength: This is me being greedy but I could have done with a four more percentage points. 22/25

Variety: A good variety of flavors across the spectrum. 23/25

Quality: Top stuff. Sophisticated oak. Sophisticated spirit. 24/25

Harmony: A lovely marriage of flavors with each one on point and working well with the others. 24/25

Rating: 92.5

Benriach 20 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 21
Taste: 21
Finish: 20
Balance: 20

Review
The BenRiach 20 was one of the first single malts I had ever purchased in my life – thanks to an overly eager salesperson. And I remember absolutely hating it! It tasted so vile I never wanted to see another BenRiach again in my life.

So it was with a sense of trepidation that three years later I decided to re-visit the same bottle and see if my first impressions were on point or not.

The answer is Yes and No. Yes, it is still not a great whisky. No, it’s not as bad as I remember.

I don’t know if it’s three years of oxidization or my now generous soul but this expression is OK. Not good; just OK.

Nose: Delicate Speyside with a mix of fruity florals and perfumed barley followed by a melon sweetness which is underscored by a dash of salt and pepper.

Palate: Prickly spice in a drizzle of light fruity honey. One dimensional at best.

Finish: Long and spicy with a strong bitter citrus after taste.

Look, this is not the vile swill I had a while ago but it’s not what I would serve to my whisky club. They would politely put their glasses away.

Rating: 82

BenRiach 17 Year Old Solstice Second Edition

Benriach 17 solstice

Distillery/Brand: BenRiach
Region: Speyside
ABV: 50%
Colour: Young Sauternes

Nose: 22
Taste: 21
Finish: 21
Balance: 22

Review
I have developed a fascination with BenRiach ever since I tasted a truly horrendous 20 year old. Vowing never to touch another one I went back on my words and actually ended up binge buying eight expressions. This 17 Year Old Second Edition Solstice is one of them. The First Edition is supposed to be legendary, unfortunately, this one is not.

Nose: Finished in Tawny Port pipes and using strong peated barley the nose reminded me of an understated Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Probably had to do with all that smoky peat and iodine on the nose. Purple grapes and cherry drops offer up the sweetness. It then takes on salty overtones with a slight hint of dankness. Get around it and there is a bubbling meat stew underneath it all. Certainly a lot going on here.

Palate: Smokey with burnt toast smeared with chocolate molasses. There’s a hint of toffee apples and some nuts but overall the delivery is fairly one dimensional.

Finish: The finish of cardamom and dark fruits left me wanting. It was completely absent on the first sip yet there on the second. I don’t know why.

This is a decent whisky but I suspect a step down from the First Edition.

Rating: 86

BenRiach 12

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 22
Taste: 22
Finish: 21
Balance: 21

Review
I once had the misfortune of tasting a 20 year old and vowed never to touch BenRiach again. Luckily I changed my mind and decided to forgive the distillery and uncorked this 12 year old expression.

The first nose is immediate bourbon which is quite delightfully interesting. Instantly transporting you to a carnival of aromas where vanilla, coconut, strong caramel, cotton candy and ripe bananas each offer you a ride if you’re willing to go along.

The delicate honey on the palate has a touch of spice on a smudge of marmalade. Un-complex. Simple.

The medium finish is oily with a biscuit and fennel after taste. An easy early evening dram if you ask me.

Rating: 86