The rejuvenated 'Heart of Speyside' distillery that's producing a spectacular range of malts

Built by John Duff in 1898, BenRiach distillery has been given a new lease of life under the stewardship of Billy Walker.

BenRiach distillery is located in what it refers to as the ‘Heart of Speyside’, between the village of Rothes and the town of Elgin, in the North-East of Scotland.

Established in 1898 by John Duff, the distillery had a troubled beginning and was mothballed just five years later in 1903. Re-opened in 1963 by Glenlivet Distillers, Benriach changed hands once more before being mothballed by Seagrams in 2002.

Things looked bleak for the distillery until 2004 when Billy Walker, formerly of Burns Stewart, formed a partnership with two South African businessmen in a bid to buy the distillery.

Billy Walker eschewed retirement in favour of new challenges with the BenRiach Distillery Company. Picture: TSPL

Billy Walker eschewed retirement in favour of new challenges with the BenRiach Distillery Company. Picture: TSPL

BenRiach Distillers Co. was born and the distillery itself was saved, quietly re-starting production and releasing a neat core range that showcased the distillery’s quality.

The company’s master stroke seems to be the introduction of their peated range, something a few Speyside distilleries had dipped their toes in but few had explored with much depth. Offering an alternative to the ubiquitous Islay peated malt selection, BenRiach released several peated malts that revealed a differing style to that of its ileach cousins.

The range ( of which sadly, several are no longer available) included port, sherry and perhaps most interestingly a dark rum matured peated malt alongside the standard Curiositas and the intensely peated Birnie Moss. All of them are well worth checking out if you’re a peat-head and even if you are not, then the dark rum cask matured Arumaticus is still worth looking into, its roasted banana swimming in molasses flavour is truly unique.

Not to be overshadowed by their smokier stablemates, the unpeated range is just as fun and the light, honeyed tones set off by that delicate fruity speyside flavour, is truly something to be enjoyed.

In 2008, BenRiach Distillery Co. purchased Glendronach Distillery, a distillery that has won many plaudits for its excellent sherry matured single malts, together it seems, both will have a massive future and can only go from strength to strength if their recent form is anything to go by.

Expressions:

BenRiach 12 year old: This wonderfully honeyed malt, is an elegant dram that really highlights that sweet Speyside flavour. Hints of pineapple and oranges complement the fresh vanilla flavour, perfect for a warm summers eve with friends.

BenRiach Curiositas 10 year old: The best place to start for those looking to explore the distillery’s peated range, this 10 year old heavily peated malt harkens back to a more traditional style of Speyside whisky and has a real smoked flavour punch. The Curiositas isn’t all peat though, subtle tones of vanilla and honey strive for your attention and seek to balance out the waves of earth smoke that will keep you wanting to come back for more.

BenRiach Birnie Moss: Named after the area of windswept moorland situated close to the BenRiach Distillery, the Birnie Moss – like the wild land that gave it its name – is raw and uncompromising. The first hit of flavour is all peat reek, and the whisky itself is definitely one to rival most Islay malts, though at only 35 ppm and with a more subtle, earthier peat, it still has some distance to go before it can challenge the likes of Laphroaig and Ardbeg.

BenRiach 16 year old: Named Best Speyside Single Malt at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards, this multi award winning 16 year old is a real show stopper. Elegant and well balanced, this could quickly become your new favourite malt if you like your whisky light and sweet. Honey, vanilla, cream and citrus fruits all vie for your attention and the richness of the body will have the taste hanging on your lips for hours after you’ve finished.

Benriach have also just released a wonderful new range of wood finishes, including many of those used in the peated wood finish range. These malts are all originally matured in American oak before being finished in casks ranging from port, sherry and Madeira through to dark rum and Sauternes.

BenRiach Curiositas. Picture: BenRiach

BenRiach Curiositas. Picture: BenRiach

 

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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