Whisky Review #104: Benrinnes 15 Years Old (Flora & Fauna range)

Benrinnes is one of those distilleries which is well known for being a vital cog within the Diageo framework and a producer of whisky for the company’s various blends.

But it also known for providing a good representation of what is considered to be the meaty, savoury and sulphurous notes that one would encounter from a select number of distilleries, most notably Balmenach, Craigellachie and Mortlach among others.

This would be due to the distillery’s use of worm tubs in the distillation process, which decreases the amount of reflux, or copper contact, thus leaving more sulphur within the new make.

It must be added that the majority of these sulphurous notes are eliminated during the maturation process, although some notes remain if the spirit was especially matured in sherry casks.

A distillery which went by the name of Lyne of Ruthrie distillery was established in 1826 on Whitehorse Farm by Peter McKenzie, although it was destroyed in a flood 3 years later. This led to another distillery being constructed a few kilometeres away by John Innes and this distillery became known as Benrinnes, which was also the name of the mountain it was situated next to.

The distillery underwent a succession of ownership changes until 1896, when a fire called for a major refurbishment and led to Alexander Edward taking over. Edward later became known as one of the more energetic entrepreneurs of his time and was responsible for either the establishment or administration of the likes of Aultmore, Oban and Benromach distilleries.

The distillery remained under his contol until 1922, when it was purchased by John Dewar & Sons, which then became a part of the famous Distillers Company Limited (DCL) 3 years later.

Under DCL’s purview, the distillery was rebuilt in 1956 and also utilised a Saladin box from 1964 until 1984, when it was decommissioned and the malt purchased centrally thereafter.

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Benrinnes distillery (Picture credit: http://whiskycyclist.weebly.com)

The distillery’s present setup includes an 8.5 tonne semi-lauter mash tun, 8 washbacks made of Oregon pine and with a fermentation time of 65 hours, 2 wash stills and 4 spirit stills. The distillery was previously known for utilising a partial triple distillation, but that has since been abandoned and been replaced by a conventional double distillation.

Under DCL’s successors, United Distillers and then Diageo, the distillery has released some official bottlings, which include a 15 Years Old expression for the Flora & Fauna range as well as a 23 Years Old sherry-matured whisky in 2008 and a 21 Years Old sherry-matured whisky in 2014.

It is the first of those three expressions that we will be focusing on for this review, while the review for the Benrinnes 21 Years Old (Diageo Special Releases 2014) can be found at the link above.

This week’s review focuses on the Benrinnes 15 Years Old, which is a part of the Flora & Fauna range and is seen to be the first official bottling from the distillery. It has been matured in sherry casks and has been botted at 43% abv.

So, let’s jump right into the review!

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Benrinnes 15 Years Old (Flora & Fauna range)

Benrinnes 15 Years Old (Flora & Fauna range, 43% abv)

Colour: Rosewood

Nose: Initial entry presents rich, meaty and savoury hints, with dense sherry, red fruits, ripe dates and some demerara sugar making an appearance. With time, oak, white pepper, faint hints of creosote and some burnt rubber notes emerge along with some worn leather and tobacco pouch. (21/25)

Palate: Initial entry is sweet, rich and dense, with the sherry and red fruits at the forefront followed by Christmas cake, meaty undertones and slight hints of burnt rubber. A note which is reminiscent of savoury raspberry jam slathered over steak is quite apparent and it is complemented by oak, dried cigar leaves and a certain effervescence. (22/25)

Finish: Medium on the finish, with the trademark savoury and meaty hints that one would associate with a Benrinnes shining through from start to finish and being complemented by some oak and cinnamon. (20/25)

Balance: A rather well-balanced and delicious representation of what Benrinnes is capable of and it is further proof that sherry casks and meaty malts make for a wondrous pairing. The mouthfeel is generally oily with a touch of dryness at the end. (21/25)

Rating: 84/100

When you consider that this expression is considered to be the one ever-present from the distillery and serves as an official bottling, it must be said that it is a pretty damn good representation of the distillery’s house style.

While this is an expression that not everyone will enjoy primarily due to its meaty nature, it is something that more seasoned drinkers would enjoy as it provides a different dimension to the well-known marriage between sherry and spirit.

This expression of Benrinnes is available for purchase on The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt and can also be found at the likes of Quaich Bar in Singapore by the bottle and the dram.

I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy sherried whiskies as it provides a different take on what one would commonly expect.

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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