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!
Speyside – BenRiach 25 year “Authenticus” Peated 46%
Our host shared that it began with 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. 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…
Read on over the coming days to see what we found…
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
I can’t wait to be back in Singapore this coming week!
My last trip there in June resulted in a remarkable whisky sampling evening at The Auld Alliance with eight different drams to our tasting adventures… A round the world tour and a remarkable Scottish suite…
The Auld Alliance – All eight sampled!
A ‘sneak peak’ into what we sampled…
For the Scottish quartet we tried a remarkable line-up: