Speyside visit update: BenRiach
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.