By Richard Thomas
BenRiach has a simply enormous line of whiskeys, embracing ages out to 40 years, peated and unpeated scotches, and virtually every sort of finishing barrel imaginable. Nestled right in the middle of that range is their 15 Year Old Tawny Port Finish. Primary maturation was carried out in American bourbon barrels, with the finishing done in tawny port hogsheads. Bottled at 46% abv, this unfiltered scotch was part of a 2006 limited release of only 2040 bottles.
In the glass, the BenRiach 15 Year Old Tawny Port had a bright orange, copper-amber coloring. The nose was rich, but subdued. The creamy sweetness of seasoned orange zest and wine red fruits are there, with a minor note of apple cider tartness. Backing all that up is the scent of musty oak. The aroma is a too unbalanced to be called complex, since the creamy sweet side half-smothers everything else, and it takes a good bit of swishing to bring out the best in it, but even so it’s pleasant to sniff at.
The flavor switches things around a bit, and brings the scotch into better balance. The musty oak is now up front, supported by dashes of pepper and a dollop of fruit syrup. The fundamental character of the 15 Year Old Tawny Port remains, so it remains a mellow whiskey, despite the peppery bite. The finish spins out of the spicy bite, rolling out into a long, lingering warmth.
In Europe, I’ve seen the BenRiach 15 Year Old Port Finish listed at around €45. That should translate into about $60 in the U.S., but I see it listed there as a pricier import at $70 or even $80. Americans should shop around to get the best deal possible.
BenRiach scored a silver at the 2008 International Wine and Spirits Competition with this whiskey.