BenRiach 12 year (2005/2018) Sherry Cask No 5052 59.3%

When planning my sherry unusual evening, I wanted there to be variety – hence Irish, Indian and Islay – yet also knew we needed at least one “proper” classic sherry dram.

Enter the BenRiach single cask, single malt bottled for World of Whisky, Heathrow Airport. Now lest you think this was standard travel retail fare, this cask was launched for World Whisky Day in May 2018 for a slightly pricey £120.

Matured in Olorosso Sherry, non-chill filtered with natural colour, we managed to nab bottle 292 of a mere 597… and discovered it was worth every single pound!

BenRiach 12 year (14 Oct 2005/2018) Cask No 5052 59.3% 

  • Nose – Milk caramel sweets, slight citrus hint, heavy toffee, rum raisins, chocolate eclairs…  started to shift into chocolate liquor, dark fruits, nuts… after quite some time there was almost a hint of blue cheese
  • Palate – Gorgeous! Simply a class act. Dark plums, black cherries, rich and simply outstanding. Lovely cinnamon, raisins, complex, so well balanced, every sip a reward.
  • Finish – Huge long flavour. Everything we loved about the palate simply carried through… for an incredibly long time… superb!

There was no doubt this was an exceptional single malt.

Not one of us were tempted to put even a single drop of water. Each sip we enjoyed more… and it kept evolving. By the 3rd we discovered cayenne, by the 4th chocolate, by the 5th the dark fruits again came to the fore… and the next dripping in honey… you get the picture!

This was one worthy whisky that invited you to slow down, take your time, savour each sip and be rewarded with the most marvellously long finish.

A brilliant reminder of what a quality sherry dram can and should be!

BenRiach tasting notes with the bottle:

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Honeycomb, chocolate, honey covered dates
  • Taste – Rich dark chocolate and herbs, honey coated almonds and figs

Here are the whiskies explored in our Sherry Unusual evening:

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Sherry Unusual – Hyde, Paul John, Kilchoman, BenRiach

Sherry’s effect on whisky can be a marvel. And I wanted to do something a bit different for our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to push the boundaries beyond the known sherry drams like Aberlour, GlenDronach, Glenrothes, etc.

Normally we dive straight into whiskies, knowing what we are trying. However I wanted to have a bit of fun with a surprise…. So kept my fellow tasters “blind.”

Next, I introduced a “reference” pour.

I said nothing about it – merely to smell (not sip) with a request between each whisky to go back to the “reference” to recalibrate senses and compare.

It didn’t take long til they realized the “reference” wasn’t whisky at all but instead a sherry… with speculation it may be a “cream” or sweetened avatar rather than a dry fino or amontillado.

I later revealed that it was a Kingsgate Canadian sherry from KittlingRidge Ontario, Canada  described on the bottle as:

“A premium medium dry sherry, barrel aged in oak for extra smoothness.”

However this Kingsgate is now known as Apera with an explanation that it is medium dry Oloroso sherry “style” dessert wine. This 2013 nod from to EU regulations recognizes that a “true” Sherry can only come from the Spanish triangle.

Which tells you this funny little bottle, inherited from a friend who was leaving India, has been around for a few years…

As for what we tried? Not quite your usual fare…

Here is the progression we explored with our Sherry Unusual evening with whiskies from Ireland, India and Islay…. plus an extra special single cask:

Hyde #6 President’s Reserve 8 year single grain + 18 year single malt 46%

From Ireland, picked as an appetizer, the bottle stated it was finished in Sherry. What made it unusual is that it is a new brand, released to help promote the Hyde name before their Hibernia distillery in Cork is fully producing.

Paul John 7 Year (2009) Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish 57.4%

This was the biggest surprise – none imaged it could be from India! We were mighty impressed with what the folks from Paul John produced with four years in ex Bourbon then 3 years in ex Sherry casks. It also opened up beautifully with a bit of water.

BenRiach 12 year (2005/2018) Oloroso Sherry Cask No 5052 59.3%

A true class act. Selected just to be sure we had at least ONE proper single malt in our evening. Gorgeous and astounding how at 59.2%, not a drop of water was desired.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2010/2016) Sherry 46%

A pure peat monster tempered with 100% sherry from Islay. Not everyone’s tipple but certainly demonstrated how peat and sweet can combine!

Just click on the whisky links to find out even more about what we discovered!

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Peat Unusual – BenRiach 25 year Authenticus Peated 46%

Last in our “Peat Unusual” evening was the beauty that inspired the evening in the 1st place! To recap, the goal was to sample peaty whiskies – other than Islay – that did not neatly follow conventional expectations of a Peaty dram.

Alas my notes from that evening were waylaid… however I had an opportunity to share a few remaining drops in another occasion… so what follows are those impressions.

BenRiach 25 year Authenticus Peated 46%

  • Nose – An initial whiff of surfer that then disappeared. Sherry sweet, peat, medicinal, green apple like a Granny Smith, cranberry juice (the tart kind not cough syrupy sweet type), juicy tart, dried hay
  • Palate – Lots going on, grassy and herbal, taste like tobacco, coriander seeds, light rancio, unmistakable peat yet equally rich and robust with other dimmensions too
  • Finish – Whiff of smoke, fabulously long and lovely

Overall we found it to be a brilliant dram. Complex, nuanced, mature and having a sophistication few whiskies achieve.

To put it mildly, this whisky was in a completely different league than the others.

And what do the folks over at BenRiach have to say?

  • Appearance: Bright, warm amber gold.
  • Nose: Elegant aromas of ripe pineapple, fresh mountain herbs and a profusion of sweet peat. A huge pungent blast of peat smoke emerges, partnering the peated element perfectly. Full bodied and audacious.
  • Palate: A fantastic fusion of rich peat and smouldering embers bound together by fresh herbs – oregano, aniseed and chicory in particular. A rush of sweet, wild honey provides a lovely contrast to this lively, intense expression.
  • Conclusions: Terrific weight and development which leaves a powerful long lasting impression on the palate.

I know this whisky was picked up at The Whisky Exchange in 2016 where it can be purchased for approx 225. I was impatiently waiting for the appropriate occasion to try… what a wonderful evening of seated whiskies.

Our “peat unusual” whiskies featured:

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BMC Peat Unusual – Alisa Bay, Ledaig “Very Cloudy”, Loch Lomond Peated, BenRiach 25 Peated

It is finally slipping into “winter” (by Indian standards), with the pollution smog haze rarely lifting, and somehow the weather and climatic conditions seem to be influencing whisky preferences… to peat.

And no ordinary peat… an exploration of a few whiskies one would not normally have on the top peat picks list from regions not immediately associated with peat. Because why should our familiar friends over in Islay corner the market when other options exist?

As this was a BMC session, we had no pretence of hiding the bottles… instead merrily dove in to our discoveries eyes wide-open!

Our “peat unusual” whiskies….

Our host shared that it began with acquiring the BenRiach 25 year peated… and morphed from there… each selected to be peat with a twist.

For example, you don’t typically find BenRiach whiskies peated…

Then it continued with Loch Lomond – again not normally peated….

So why Ledaig you may ask? By their “nature” Ledaig is Tobermoray’s peaty whiskies. Yes indeed. However the “Very Cloudy” Vintage 2008 is known to have a lighter dusting of peat rather than full force peat one normally associates with a Ledaig….

And Alisa Bay? Not only is it newer to market as a single malt, it breaks with typical Lowland convention to combine peat with sweet…

Then our evening closed with cigars. How perfect!

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Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a few swallows, discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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Peaty Mini – BenRiach Peaty Quarter Cask 46%

Next in our miniatures sampling was a little nip from a recent trip to Canada. After some disastrous experiences with decent drams being devastated by poor storage, I was keen to shorten the gap between acquiring the sample and actually tasting it!

BenRiach Peat Quarter Cask 46%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Peppery peat of a style that is “quite forward”, cinnamon apple crumble, chased by delicious oily bacon
  • Palate – Christmas peat, plum cake, very sweet
  • Finish – Spice sweet, cinnamon

Each sip tells a different whisky – the kind of one we wished we had more of to continue to explore.

We also tried it in the Norlan glass – it smoothed out the palate, yet punched up the flavours, gently rounding and bringing out a dry quality.

And what do the folks at BenRiach have to say?

This UNIQUE single malt has been distilled from PEATEDmalted barley and has been FULLY matured in quarter casks. A smaller cask allows for more INTERACTION between the wood and the spirit, giving the whisky a great depth of flavour and aroma in a shorter period of time. Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and natural colour, this is an EXTRAORDINARY, full-flavoured dram.

  • Nose – Elegant waves of wood smoke intensify to burning heather with a delicious contribution of ripe orchard fruits. Subtle hints of peaches, cinnamon sugar and a slight herbal note of fresh barley give an added contrast to the unique, rich peat character.
  • Taste – Intense peat smoke mellows to smouldering peat embers infused with green pear and nectarine notes. Nutty oak and vanilla pods combine with a touch of white pepper and a twist of lime to give a crisp, smoky finish.

We sampled from a sample from an open bottle in October 2017… The original bottle was opened on my wedding in June 2017, purchased at a Winnipeg Liquor Store for approx $107.

And what else did we sample in our merry mini malts evening?

And here’s more malt miniatures from my The Whisky Exchange:

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Minis of a peaty persuasion

It has been some time since the collection of minis were attacked! The collection came out with the intent to focus on whiskies of a peatier persuasion…

And what did we select?

What was remarkable was the range of peats we discovered…

After all this, we rewarded ourselves with a Machir Bay – no tasting notes, just pure unadulterated enjoyment!!

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Krishna Collection – BenRiach 20 year (1994/2014) 54.7%

Last in an evening with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac, was a whisky from BenRiach

Photo: Scotch Whisky Auctions - note image is for Cask 806 not 808

Photo: Scotch Whisky Auctions – note image is for Cask 806 not 808

BenRiach 20 year (1994/2014) 54.7%

Cask No 808 Olorosso Sherry Peated OB for Taiwan Bottle 84/678

  • Nose – Peaty, sherry, brine, sweet spice, heather and flowers
  • Palate – Smooth, peat, a little spice, very well balanced
  • Finish – Lovely

One of those whiskies that sound like the different elements would not go together, but somehow do. The interplay of sherry and peat works wonderfully and was a worthy close to our evening.

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

Other BenRiach whiskies sampled so far include:

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BenRiach 15 year (1999/2015) Cask #44016, 55.1%

So… what was the whisky recommended at Toad in the Hole pub’s Whisky Bar? A limited release BenRiach sold only in Manitoba at our provincial liquor mart.

Yup… you read that correctly. The independent whisky makers over at the BenRiach distillery decided Manitobans deserved their very own cask #44016.

BenRiach 1999

BenRiach 15 year (1999/2015) 55.1%

Cask no 44016, bottle 163 of 208

  • Nose – Warm cinnamon, pears, butter pecan, soft rum, apple crisp… think warm butterscotch
  • Palate – Very approachable – a little nutty, vanilla and cream “I’m in my happy place now”… imagine that butterscotch now generously poured over a high quality rich high-fat vanilla ice cream
  • Finish – Quite pleasant with light dancing nutty spice

The only problem? It was gone too quickly!

On the bottle, it was described as:

Green apple skins and pears complemented by a lively barley character, all warmed by a gentle spice finish with overtones of almond and vanilla. 

Here is what the Manitoba Liquor Mart has to say:

EXCLUSIVE to Manitoba Liquor Mart! This specially selected product has been resting in a first-fill Bourbon cask in the famed Scottish Speyside region from 1999 until its bottling in April, 2015. On the nose a sweet floral oak note explodes to heather-honey, lemon, apples and poached pears, all of which is surrounded by the richness of dark vanilla pod, toasted coconut and notes of crème brûlée. On the palate, green apple skins and pears are complemented by a lively barley character, all warmed by a gentle spice finish with overtones of almond and vanilla.

 As for me? Very happy to have the privilege of sampling this dram!

Other BenRiach tastings:

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BenRiach 17 year Septendecim 46%

Ah.. time to return to the Canadian Stash… Next up? BenRiach Septendecim or 17 year to us ordinary folks! This sample came compliments of my aunt and uncle.

Now, this is not my first introduction to BenRiach. Nope. A few years ago our our merry malt gang sampled the 16 year and then on a trip to Singapore in 2015, I went straight for the remarkable BenRiach 21 year (1988) 54.8%.

Both of these BenRiach avatars followed more of a ‘classic’ Speyside style and eschewed heavy peat. Not so the latin series – these are full on peat – and Septendecim is reputed to be an excellent example. I simply had to dive in!

BenRiach 17 year (Whisky Lady's uncle)

BenRiach 17 year (Whisky Lady’s uncle)

BenRiach Septendecim 46%:

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Oh yum! If you want peaty, robust deliciousness, this hits the spot. Some sweet vanilla custard, cinnamon and nutmeg spice, cedar, a hint of citrus or apples yet overall light on the fruit element and heavier on the pipe tobacco quality followed by a drizzle of honey
  • Taste – Sweet pipe tobacco, lotsa chewy leathery peat peat peat, some vanilla….
  • Finish – Smokey, cinnamon and cloves, black pepper
  • Water – Even sweeter, tames the flame but brings the smoke out even more

Definitely delivers a heavily peated, richer and more robust character.

The nose is quite superb – peaty perfection that is neither in your face nor holds back from giving you a chance to revel in it. However with such fabulous aromas, the palate is somewhat wanting… falling slightly short of what the nose promises. As it evolves into its finish, it goes up again several notches.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid dram and well worth sipping… it simply had the potential for ‘Wow!’ complexity and depth yet instead landed just shy of that. Might be worth a revisit though.

Here’s what the distiller has to say:

The new 17 year-old has been matured only in ex-bourbon casks and continues BenRiach’s quirky trend of using Latin names – such as Authenticus, Curiositas and Heredotus Fumosus – for its richly-peated expressions.

  • Colour – The colour is rich summer gold with a freshly harvested barley impression.
  • Nose – It’s full of energy and vibrancy – a complex mix of fresh peaty aromas constructed around a central core of apples and toasted nuts dowsed in wild mountain honey.
  • Palate  – It gives sweet concentrated peat flavours which dominate from the start. Bold and intense, the peaty heart is united with honey-infused raisins, roasted nuts and a luxurious leather impression.

Here’s what others say:

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