The 'Curiositas' is a peaty, smoky whisky made by the Benriach distillery in the Speyside whisky region of Scotland. The production of a smoky whisky is an unusual practice for a Speyside distillery. Smoky whiskies are more commonly produced on the islands around Scotland, especially the western isle of Islay. Benriach release two - this 10 years old called 'Curiositas' and a 21 years old named 'Authenticus'. These two whiskies form part of one of the most innovative ranges of any Scottish distillery - the expansive regular range is matured in ex-bourbon casks, with an additional range of different casks finished whiskies adding to these two smoky ones. They make peaty whisky at Benriach for roughly three weeks every year.
Benriach is located approximately 3 miles to the south of the city of Elgin and the distillery was founded in 1897 by John Duff & Co. They had already built the Longmorn distillery on a neighbouring plot of farmland in 1894. The original name was the slightly unimaginative Longmorn 2, before changing to Benriach in 1899. The distillery currently has a production capacity of 2.8 million litres per year, with most being released as single malts.
Benriach had a very short early history – it was closed and mothballed in 1903 and not reopened until 1965, when it was bought and restarted by the Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. It was closed and mothballed again in 2002 by Pernod Ricard, who were the owners at the time. In 2004, an independent group named the Benriach Distillery Company took over the distillery and all of its maturing stock. This group was headed by Billy Walker, a former director of Burn Stewart Distillers, and this makes Benriach one of the few remaining distilleries in Scotland that is independently owned.
This 'Curiositas' is bottled at 40% ABV and should cost between £25-30 a bottle. It has a golden amber colour and the nose of the whisky has aromatic sweet peat (imagine damp moss or earth) combining with fragrant hints of honey, cereal grains, citrus fruit (think of lemon zest especially), something herbal (imagine dried grass or hay) and oaky vanilla. On the palate, there is a complex mix of honey sweetness, heather, nuts (think of almonds), malted barley and those citrus and grassy notes from the nose . Then comes the peaty, slightly phenolic and salty smokiness - the marriage of all the elements is lovely and balanced with a lighter, fresher feeling than expected in your mouth. The finish is long, clean and fresh with vanilla, honey, dried grass and a hint of something reminiscent of liquorice or menthol. The sweetness creates an enjoyable combination with the lingering smoky peatiness
Benriach 10 years old 'Curiositas' is a very good whisky. It is well balanced and fresh and offers a fantastic and unusual alternative to the heavier island and Islay smoky whiskies. It also offers great value for money compared to these competitors. We had heard that it was an interesting and pleasant whisky, but that description doesn't really do it justice. We opened our bottle on Christmas Day and it was a welcome surprise that it was so good (it goes very well with blue and goats cheeses we also discovered!). 'Curiositas' is a cracking dram from an under-rated distillery and is a 'must try' for all fans of smoky whisky.