Whisky Advocate

Speyside visit update: BenRiach

April 28th, 2008

I just returned back from a tour of seven Speyside distilleries. Over the next few weeks, I’ll provide a brief overview of some of the interesting whiskies I tasted, along with some general thoughts on each distillery. A feature on Speyside will appear in the 4th Quarter 2008 issue of Malt Advocate magazine. The first distillery we’ll take a look at is BenRiach.

When Billy Walker and a group of investors purchased BenRiach four years ago, they already inherited stock from the previous owner (Chivas Brothers) that included a wide variety of experimental whiskies, including peated whiskies, triple distilled whiskies, whisky aged in virgin wood and whisky aged in various cask sizes. On top of this, Billy Walker & Co. have been conducting their own experiments, including a wide variety of wood finishes. That would include some experiments that didn’t work out as planned, like a 1991 Tokaji wood finish, which Billy admits “we kept it too long (in the Tokaji wood).”

The highlight of my tour was a stroll through one of the warehouses with Billy, where we sampled a number of whiskies straight from the cask. One was one of the oldest whiskies he has in the warehouse, from 1968. But we also sampled more than a dozen other whiskies. My favorite was from a 1976 fino sherry butt which was superb! There were other interesting whiskies, including a 1976 Quarter Cask, a 1975 port wood finish, a 1984 peated port wood finish, a 1988 whisky from a virgin cask, a couple of whiskies finished in Gaja Barolo, and even a 1991 Chateau d’Yquem finish.

Suffice it to say that Malt Advocate magazine’s distillery of the year for 2007 will continue to be offering interesting new whiskies indefinitely. A full report on BenRiach will appear in the 4th Quarter 2008 issue.

4 Responses to “Speyside visit update: BenRiach”

  1. Jim Gillen says:

    Work, work work, work, well I guess someone has to do it! I really enjoy your reports.

  2. John Hansell says:

    Jim, it was an exhausting trip. But I don’t expect to get any sympathy from anyone.

    Thanks for the kind words. — John

  3. Rene Looper says:

    Hi John,

    Hope you enjoyed your trip to Speyside. Did you manage to get a bike and/or get to the leisure centre?

    Also what was your experience in Speyside? Did you enjoy the experience? What did you like/didn’t like? Any recommendations?

    I’m in the business of improving the Tourism offering in Speyside so any feedback/suggestions appreciated.

    I’m attending the opening dinner this Thursday at Glen Rothes distillery and the whisky tasting dinner at Aberlour distillery on Friday. So looking forward to that!

    Have fun and keep blogging!


  4. John Hansell says:

    Hi Rene,

    Infortunately our only free time was Sunday afternoon. A flight delay and subsequent missed connection put an end to that.

    Speyside was great, as always. The distillery tours were great, and we had some nice meals along the way too.

    Have a great time at the Speyside Whisky Festival. — John

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