Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 21

21 12 2014

Last night I delicately expressed some annoyance at the third appearance of a distillery (Springbank) in a 24-day Advent calendar.  Consider that foreshadowing for tonight, when it happened again.  At least the Springbank whiskies were split between three different sub-labels, but tonight’s whisky completed a one-label BenRiach trilogy:  first there was BenRiach 16 back on Day 2, then there was BenRiach 20 on Day 11, and now there’s the hilariously named BenRiach Septendecim, a 17 Year Single Malt from Speyside.  “Septendecim” is Latin for “17” and continues a calendar tradition of whiskies being given extraordinarily wordy and complex names for no particular reason.  It certainly got my attention.

Everything looks more impressive in Latin.

Everything looks more impressive in Latin.

The coolest thing about the Septendecim (which feels like it should be written in capital letters at all times – SEPTENDECIM!!) is that its a (heavily) peated whisky from Scotland’s Speyside region, an area that is almost never known for peat.  The other two BenRiachs in the calendar are much more typical Speyside, light and sweet and clean as a whistle.  This one is flat out dirty:  you can smell the peat even as you’re pouring the first glass.  It also has my eternal gratitude for not letting a single drop of whisky touch a sherry cask — this is all ex-Bourbon barrels all the way.  Finally.

The SEPTENDECIM!! is not fooling around, blowing smoke rings right through your sinuses on a nose that combines aged cigars, fireplace ash, charred logs, melted plastic and motor oil, maybe with a touch of nuttiness around the edges.  If you hunt hard enough, you can maybe detect some canned pears on the palate, but they are emphatically drowned out by maple smoked bacon, shoe leather, varnish and so, so much smoke.  I eventually just stopped writing tasting notes and started writing concepts:  Old car smell.  Suede basement armchair.  Hunting lodge.  You get the idea.  The peat is kind of everything in this whisky, but this turns out to be a bit of a boon, as it helps prevent BenRiach fatigue the third time around.  There is no earthly way you could have this blind and tie it to the other two BenRiach scotches in this calendar.  I still think a “no three-peat” rule should be in order for any future whisky Advent calendar, but if you sneak in a Latin chameleon, you might be forgiven.  SEPTENDECIM!!!

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