Benriach is an absolutely wonderful independent distillery with an extensive and somewhat experimental range of whiskies. I particularly love their sherry-influenced releases, but what about their core range? I find this distillery flourishes when offering ‘finished’ whiskies, but the core range can often come off as bland or uneventful by comparison. At least, that was my reaction to the ‘Heart of Speyside’ and the 12 Year Old. Here’s my take on the 16.
Nose: Almonds, grain, smooth vanilla, cream, butter, and white rice. Light oak and peat are in there, too. After some time, there are also some nice tropical fruit notes, albeit faint. Coconut and pineapple? I think so. That’s unexpected…
Palate: Really pleasant, farm-ish notes hit first. Barley, fresh wheat, and late-summer grass. There’s also some mild peat coming through. Extremely nutty throughout.
Finish: Ends on a burnt pastry note. Burnt butter. Malt and peat. Citrus rind comes in just at the end, as well.
I don’t know what to make of this dram. I like the nutty character. I like the mild grass and peat in here. But it doesn’t blow my mind. It’s distinct, yet somehow average. While I’ve become accustomed to the more ‘fanciful’ releases from this brand, this is certainly a pleasant, if not straight-forward expression from BenRiach. If I had to compare this to another dram, I might draw comparisons to a blend, of all things. Odd, I know, but the grassy, farmy, nutty, grainy notes really remind me to my beloved Ballentine’s 17. Overall, this is good stuff. Pleasant through and through. But this should be stronger. At just 43%, it could be a much more vibrant dram if it were bottled at a higher percentage. The peated character isn’t as good or rounded as it is in the ‘Fumosus’ releases. The grainy, grassy character is great, but better presented in the cheaper-still Ballentine’s 17. Everything characteristic of this whisky can be found elsewhere, often better done and/or cheaper. Good, but not great.