Benriach is an innovative distillery based in the heart of the Speyside region, near to the town of Elgin. Benriach is independently owned and release a traditional Speyside style core range. However, this core range is joined by another range of whiskies that are finished in different wine casks or are made with peated malt or both. Both practices, especially using peated malt, are unusual practices for a Speyside distillery and the current owners decided to do them in order to attract new customers to their whiskies. The current trend for smoky whisky has seen other distilleries starting to produce but Benriach had the foresight to do this, making this 21 years old by far the oldest non-Islay peated malt on the market. It is a release that is limited to only 4800 bottles and should cost around £55-60.
The nose is very promising and is full of subtle smokiness. The peat combines with some gorgeous honey, vanilla and crisp green fruits (think of fresh pears and apples). On the palate, the peat and smoke are much more prominent (imagine a dry smokiness, like a bonfire) and the initial hit to your tastebuds is a combination of this smoke and a citrus blast (think of lemon zest). Other flavours then start to develop. The honey and vanilla from the nose come through and are joined by some sweet dried fruits (sultanas, i think) and some warm spices (imagine nutmeg and cinammon). The finish is very long, peaty, sweet, spicy and enjoyable. This is an excellent whisky and is a great example of how smokiness can work with a lighter spirit, such as benriach. The combination of the peat smoke and rich sweet fruitiness is a real winner.