THE WORLD OF WHISKY IS NOT AS OLD AS THAT OF WINE, THE OLDEST DISTILLERIES BEING IN EXISTENCE FOR ONLY TWO CENTURIES.
But like the wine industry, whisky production is also dependent on geography, rigorous production methods, and a unique ‘language’, to describe with precision attributes of the finished product such as colour, nose, or taste. Fine whisky production begins with elemental ingredients: barley, clean water, peat to fire the stills, and oak barrels for aging. If Canadians make rye and Americans bourbon, the Scots produce a whisky called scotch. Among the established Scottish producers, one company is experiencing a revival: BenRiach (in Gaelic, ‘the hill of red deer’), located in Speyside innorth-east Scotland, together with the majority of distilleries, including Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.
Founded in 1898, the house was never given time to deliver on its full potential, a victim of the famous financial scandal called the Pattison Crash shuttered the company after only two years of operation. It reopened only in 1965 passing through several hands, including Seagrams and Pernod Ricard, before again regaining independence in 2004 when it was acquired by Billy Walker, a seasoned veteran in the art
Since the relaunch, BenRiach has expanded its product offering with six new varieties of single malt, (the last four mentioned listed at the SAQ): the Heart of Speysides; BenRiach aged 12 years; BenRiach aged 16 years ($99); BenRiach aged 20 years($144); the Curiositas (a single peated malt aged 10 years ($69); and Authenticus (a single peated malt aged 21 years ($168). Here’s what to weigh in this last fine whisky.
For colour: a deep gold. To the nose: a pungent explosion of peat and smoke, combined with hints of honey, apple and spice. To the taste: a rich peat in perfect harmony with honey, chocolate, grape and oak, ending in a cascade of spice. It’s a return to the origins of the character of Speyside whiskies and to the malt flavours typical of the nineteenth century.
However, the new owners aren’t stopping there. Their vision is not only to preserve the great traditions of the distillery but to conquer new markets with special whiskys, and novel captivating taste expressions, blending the finest vintage BenRiach with younger barrels. Whisky, a world to discover. And at BenRiach, to rediscover.