By Kurt Maitland
The Benrinnes Distillery was built near the remains of a prior distillery near Whitehouse Farm, Banffshire in 1826. The first building was destroyed by flood in 1829, and another distillery was constructed around 1835. The ownership of Benrinnes changed several times before it was acquired by John Dewar & Sons in 1922. In 1925, the merger of John Dewar & Sons with DCL (Distillery Company Limited), the forerunner of Diageo, brought the distillery and its stock to its current owner.
The distillery was completely rebuilt in 1955/56, with the traditional floor maltings replaced by a Saladin Box in 1964, which was removed 20 years later when Benrinnes stopped malting barley altogethre. The production capacity of the distilley was expanded in 1966 by increasing the number of stills from three to six. In 1974, the distillery switched to a system of ‘partial triple distillation’. The feints and low wines produced in the second distillation (in the first spirit still) are distilled again in the second. This process, plus the fact that Benrinnes is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that still uses worm tubs to cool the spirit from the stills, makes for a distinct character in their spirit.
The partial triple distillation method was abandoned in the 2000s, but this release was barreled prior to that change, and bottled at 56.9% abv (113.8 proof)
Despite the long history of Benrinnes, there has been little in the way of official bottlings from it. Except for a few releases from independent bottlers, the spirit has mainly been used in blends, particularly Johnnie Walker and J&B.
Nose: Strawberries, toasted caramel, a little melon musk.
Taste: Cantaloupe, melons with raisins and hints of molasses. The release brings big fruit notes along with a slightly musty funk that mingles well with the malt. The mouthfeel comes off a little slick at first blush, then an astringent aspect kicks in along with a rush that reminds you that this isn’t your standard proof.
A little water cuts down on the astringency and the spiciness and makes the Benrinnes a tad bit sweeter. The addition of water tames it, which is good for some, but I tend to like a bit of an adventure.
Finish: Quickly turns from its well-rounded sweetness to a long lasting white peppery run before the dryness kicks in.
As a part of Diageo’s 2014 batch of Special Releases, don’t expect any discounts. This release should run you around $400 dollars US (if you can find it, of course), but considering what a 20 year old whiskies are going for and the fact that this distillery’s work is rarely released as a single malt, I can’t say that it’s too much of a price to pay.