Benriach Distillery, located in the heart of Speyside region of Scotland, was founded by John Duff in 1898. However, the distillery’s story is not without its twists and turns, as it was one of many that fell victim to the Pattison crash of 1899 and was forced to close just two years after opening. It remained dormant for the next 65 years, until it was finally restarted in 1965. Despite being part of Seagram’s Classic Malts range, it struggled to gain recognition among whisky drinkers. In 2003, it was bought by the Benriach Distilling Co. and under the leadership of Billy Walker, it has become a strong performer on the global market. The distillery was acquired by Brown-Forman in 2016, and it is now back in full production, with the floor maltings reopening in 2013. Benriach renewed its core range in 2020 with two ten-year-old and two twelve-year-old, each of those in peated and unpeated versions. We’ll be reviewing the latter two, the Benriach Twelve & Smoky Twelve.
Benriach The Twelve Review
Benriach The Twelve is an unpeated 12-year-old single malt matured in a combination of ex-Bourbon, Sherry and Port casks. Bottled at 46% ABV, it is unfortunately unknown if it is non-chill filtered and natural colour. As said above, it’s part of their new core range introduced in 2020. Expect to pay about £38 to £42 in the UK, and between €40 and €60 in Europe depending on the countries.
Burnished. Small beads form on the crown, then fatten a bit, before changing to, at first, slow legs, but after a few millimetres down the side of the glass, the legs accelerate noticeably.
Neat: Fruity nose with notes of wine gums, citrus, orange, red fruits, cherries, berries, and pineapple. The alcohol is not overpowering, and there are also hints of spices such as cinnamon and milk chocolate. There is also a subtle minty and sawdust note.
Neat: On the palate, this whisky has flavours of berries, orange, and honey with a hint of flowers. There is a nice sour edge underlying the taste, with a bit of bitterness that remains quite powerful. There are also nutty notes of hazelnuts and woody flavours. Additionally, there are hints of raisins, creamy honey, white pepper, vanilla, mint, and eucalyptus. The whisky has a creamy mouthfeel.
The finish is winey, woody, and bitter with a good length. There are also notes of oak spices and cherries.
This whisky is quite a nice whisky. It is flavourful, rich, and the combination of casks used to make it is well balanced. Combine that with a reasonable price and you got a good combination for an everyday dram.
Benriach The Smoky Twelve Review
Benriach The Smoky Twelve is this time a peated 12-year-old single malt, matured in a combination of ex-Bourbon, Sherry and Marsala casks. Bottled at 46% ABV, I hope it is non-chill filtered and natural colour but I can’t be sure as it’s not mentioned on the packaging. As said above, it’s part of their new core range introduced in 2020. Expect to pay about £40 to £48 in the UK, and between €43 and €60 in Europe depending on the countries.
Deep copper. Fat beads change to fat legs, descending quicker than The Twelve.
Neat: This whisky has a quite smoky nose, with notes of ash and dry wood fire smoke. There are also light fruit notes of citrus, pineapple, and dried herbs. Additionally, there are meaty notes of cured ham. The malt is present but not overpowering.
Neat: On the palate, this whisky has a velvety mouthfeel. The smoky flavors from the nose carry over, with an added wood bitterness. There are spicy and fruity notes, with chilli and oak spices on one side and pineapple and citrus on the other. There is a good balance of sweetness as well, with notes of caramel, vanilla, toffee and caramel cream dessert.
The finish of this whisky is smoky and woody, with notes of cold ash and oak char. There is also a light citrusy sourness, wood spices and a medium length. The smoke and wood flavours linger in the mouth for a little longer.
Though I really like peat, in my humble opinion it doesn’t work as well in this particular whisky. On the nose, for a moment, the smoke overpowers the other aromas. The palate is clearer but for me it’s not as enjoyable as the unpeated Twelve. The finish is consistent with the smoke and woody notes but for my personal taste, it lacks a bit of balance.
Bottle pictures: courtesy of Whiskybase. Lead picture: courtesy of The Benriach. Samples used for the review were acquired with my own money.
An edit was made regarding chill filtration and colouring on the 30rd January as I was at first affirmative, having thought to have read the bottles were NC/NCF. It is in fact not mentioned so the review has been edited accordingly. Thank you @consett_whisky for raising the question!