Posts Tagged ‘BenRiach’

Billy Walker of BenRiach Distillery — in 140 or Less

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Another in our occasional series of Tweet-style interviews. As always, it’s 140 characters or less (we don’t count the spaces) in the answers from the CEO of BenRiach Distillery.

Author - Caroline DewarWhat’s the view from your window at HQ?

Edinburgh airport. Unfortunately, I don’t just get to see the planes – I hear them too.

But I understand you’re up at The Glendronach today…

Yes, it’s looking fantastic. Weather staggeringly good for the time of year.

You’re originally a chemistry graduate. Did you choose the whisky industry or fall into it?

I chose it, but a bit of inevitability, coming from Dumbarton, home of J&B and Ballantine’s blending and bottling.

What’s been your career path?

Pharmaceutical research; Ballantine’s; Beecham’s; Inver House; then Burn Stewart: bought that out and after 20 years bought BenRiach.

BenRiach ‘04, GlenDronach ‘08, Glenglassaugh ‘13. All Highland/Speyside. Ambitions for more, other regions, new build?

Not new build. If something came up adding balance to the business, we’d consider. Hard at present as many from outside interested in a hot industry and raising prices.

BenRiach: 6 ranges, quite comprehensive. Any more to come? New finishes maybe?benriachMDBillyWalker

No…might be a bit of rationalization.

What of the distillations since you bought it? It’s been 10 years now.

We’ll definitely do something to recognize the 10 year milestone.

You found peated stock on buying it. How much of a boon was that?

Quite a lot. It let us do something not done before on Speyside. Those creative enough to do it years ago were revolutionary. It’s a different style from the islands too.

The GlenDronach – a pity the previous owners removed the coal-firing of stills?

Oh, sure, but they were made to do so by Health & Safety people. But we do get a more even heat distribution with indirect firing – and it hasn’t impacted on quality at all.

You’re doing great things with it. A smaller range than BenRiach – so far.

A more traditional range.  It was very visible for years then marginalized for 10 years to ‘08. It has an uncluttered footprint with the sherry, just us and Glenfarclas.

I loved the 1968 years ago. Has your bottling sold out?

Not yet but it will soon. We have a few more casks of it and the strength is holding up well. Good news!

Future plans there?

Emphasis on brand build. Infrastructure / cosmetic changes, we’ve done those. The location makes it look good. We replaced old wooden washbacks with new ones.

Glenglassaugh: your new baby. What’s happening?

We found the distillery ran very well. We’ve done up the dunnage warehouse, mended roads, landscaped, converted maltings to warehousing.

Is there a stocks gap, and how are you dealing with that?

Now running at full capacity. It’s a long play. We’ll feed out vintage stock and continue Evolution and Revival. A 20 year gap but due to vintages we can get a good income.

Still bottling on site?

No. Need a good sheet filter or whisky loses brightness. No chill filtering but still need brightness. We bottle existing Octave casks too, but we don’t sell any more.

Anything more?

More to come. One will be a blend to commemorate the distillery’s founder, Colonel James Moir, with Glenglassaugh as the base.

Will we see big range development here too?

No, we’ll take time to allow brand’s personality to develop. We’ll see where the journey takes us.

Your brands are at a lot of whisky festivals. Do you speak at them yourself?

I’ve done some and enjoy it. Might do 1 or 2 this year but I don’t enjoy the traveling so much now.

I’m told your interests are football and cricket. Any particular football team?

I’m a Rangers supporter, so there’s a question over whether I’m still a supporter or not!

[For non-UK readers, Rangers was one of Scotland’s top clubs but was demoted a few leagues after some financial scandals. Now having to win their way back up.]

Cricket: might seem odd for a Scotsman but my Dad loves it too. How did that come about?

School, our physical education teacher was an enthusiast. It was part of the sport curriculum and I liked it.

So are your key markets linked to countries with cricketing prowess?!

No, but we’re in South Africa and Australia, and SA is key! UK is important too, as are Europe, North America, and Taiwan. No one place dominates.

Are you still intent on not selling via supermarkets and large chains?

Yes. We support private, independent retailers. They support us and have done for a long time.

What’s your desert island dram? You’re allowed to appreciate the work of others!

Either BenRiach Authenticus or The GlenDronach 18 year old. If not possible, I’d be comfortable with a vintage Caol Ila, north of 20 years old.

And we’re done – thank you.

Review: BenRiach Pedro Ximinez Finish 1995 Vintage

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

BenRiach Pedro Ximinez Finish, (Cask #7165), 1995 Vintage, 52.3%, $95

This is the heavily peated expression of BenRiach. (BenRiach does not differentiate their peated expressions with a different name, as Springbank does with Longrow, or Tobermory with Ledaig.) It’s also finished with the dark, lush “PX” sherry. Both influences are very evident, with the deep, heavy, earthy, smoky notes complemented by dark, fleshy, dried fruit. I think the two different influences marry very nicely here and I really enjoy drinking it. (Bottling at cask strength is a bonus!)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

BenRiach releases Limited Edition Batch #6

Monday, July 20th, 2009

This is just in this morning. 70cl bottles only, so none are coming to the U.S. (sigh…)

BenRiach Issues Limited Release Batch Six

The BenRiach Distillery Company has selected nine vintages for its sixth limited release batch.

They range fr19701035frontsetom a 38-year-old from 1970 to a 14-year-old from 1994 and will be bottled towards the end of July.

Regional Sales Director Alistair Walker said: “This is the sixth batch of BenRiach limited release single cask bottlings. Batch 1 was released in 2004 shortly after we took over the distillery and we have released a batch every year since. As a result, over the last five years these have built up quite a following.”

Batch Six includes classic Speyside styles and heavily peated BenRiachs, various wood finishes (Pedro Ximinez, Tawny Port, Gaja Barolo), and a very unusual 1977 (cask 3798) that has been matured exclusively in Virgin American Oak for thirty-one years.

Alistair added: “In terms of age and style, the range reflects the breadth and depth of whiskies maturing in our five dunnage warehouse in the Heart of Speyside. Each will be bottled at cask strength, with natural colour and non chill filtered. Bottles will be individually numbered by hand, and will be housed in a gift tube.”

Batch Six is being marketed in fifteen countries worldwide, with shipments scheduled to the UK, Europe, South Africa, Asia and New Zealand.

The full cask list is as follows:

1970 cask # 1035 / 38YO / PX Sherry Finish                               
1975 cask # 4450 / 33YO / Peated/Tawny Port Finish                                   
1977 cask # 3798 / 31YO / Full maturation in Virgin Oak                                           
1978   cask # 4414 / 31YO / Gaja Barolo Finish                                    
1978 cask # 7772 # 30YO / Classic Speyside                                                   
1984 cask # 1048 / 24YO / Peated / Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish                                       
1988   cask # 4424 / 20YO / Gaja Barolo Finish                        
1990   cask # 970 / 19YO / Classic Speyside                                                     
1994   cask # 105100 / 14YO / Classic Speyside 

Review: Two from BenRiach

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

BenRiach, Maderensis Fumosis (Madeira Wood Finish), 13 year old, 46%, $88
(Sounds more like a disease than a whisky.) A peated version of BenRiach, with the tarry smoke melding nicely with toffee, bramble and rhubarb. Lingering earthy smoke on the finish and slightly tannic, with subtle fruit. Good mouth-feel on this one.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85

BenRiach, Sauternes Wood Finish, 16 year old, 46%, $113
Lovely golden honey color. Lush and sweet (the Sauternes impact is obvious), with honey-drenched apricot, sultana and lemon gum drops. Vanilla, candied nuts and subtle botanics round out the palate. Decent oak grip on the finish keeps the whisky from being too cloying.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 83