The good chaps at Caskstrength.net (over on the blogroll of course) issued their first bottling last year and have since professed a desire to bottle an A-Z of scotch. As such, the first release came from the Isle of Arran distillery, and a particularly good example it most certainly was. This time around Neil and Joel have selected an enticing BenRiach whisky and given my oft-mentioned fondness for the distillery, expectations are rather high.
You never quite know what to expect from BenRiach, from the ‘70s fruit bombs to the unusual finishes and peated examples it’s quite the enigma. Here we have a young/mid aged example that has spent some time in a Pedro Ximenez influenced cask. PX is an incredibly concentrated, intense style of sherry and can quite easily overwhelm a delicate spirit. Judging from the colour, such issues are unlikely here and with luck this should be a fitting follow up to that lovely Arran.
Last time we reviewed a BenRiach whisky on the blog it was a prime example of the sheer brilliance of the distillery’s output during the mid-70s. There’s no question that such bottlings are joy to taste and that any opportunity to do so should not be missed, but there is more to this reinvigorated Speyside distillery than the uber-fruity oldies. For around 25 years the distillery has done that which is quite unusual outside of the Scottish Islands and produced batches of peated spirit, originally intended for blending.
Since being taken over in 2004 BenRiach has gone from relative obscurity to a position of great importance as a single malt, thus drawing great interest in their slumbering stock of casks. The peated releases might not have gathered quite the following of the very best single casks, but there is no denying that they show a character all their own, being clearly set apart from the Islay whiskies with little medicinal or coastal presence.
BenRiach whiskies from the mid 70′s is deservedly held is high regard within whisky circles. The official single casks from 1976 first attracted people’s attention in 2004 and subsequent bottlings have only gone on to solidify their reputation. They regularly show delicious tropical fruit driven profiles but, on the whole, those released have managed to avoid intrusive oakiness.
This 1975 example was bottled for Bert Bruyneel’s label “Asta Morris” in 2011 and was, unsurprisingly, greeted with considerable praise on release. You will struggle to find a bottle of this one, but the quality is indicative of similar casks that are continuing to hit the market, not least Bert’s own releases from the late 70s.