Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 16

16 12 2015

BenRiach!  Finally!  After dominating last year’s Advent calendar with a whopping trio of entries (the 16 Year, the 20 Year, and the hilariously named 17 Year Septendicim), BR had been conspicuously absent from the 2015 edition, but I was happy to see it back, with a bottling younger than any of the 2014s:  the 10 Year Peated Single Malt Curiositas (they can’t stay away from the Latin, apparently).  The showy name is accurate, however, as a peated malt from the Speyside region of Scotland is certainly a curiosity, to the point of being a near-oxymoron; you almost never see a Speyside scotch make use of peat-kilned malted barley.  Not that this stops BenRiach, which has FIVE such peated whiskies in its lineup!  BenRiach may have the craziest history of any distillery I’ve come across:  it was opened in 1898 but mothballed just 2 years later, and it stayed non-operational as a distiller for SIXTY-FIVE YEARS before re-opening in 1965.  Even then, it didn’t bottle and sell whisky under its own brand name, instead providing its product to other distillers and blends.  It wasn’t sold as a standalone bland until 1994…and then it was promptly mothballed AGAIN in 2002.  In 2004 it was sold (for not the first time) to a group of individual entrepreneurs led by scotch industry vet Billy Walker, after which, 106 years after initially opening, it first hit its stride, and it’s never looked back.  Scotch is nuts sometimes.

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The Curiositas is not fooling around with its peat content, which you can smell as soon as the screw cap seal cracks.  BenRiach’s website notes the “wonderful overtones of peat reek” on its 10 Year – mmm.  Cigar box, tanned leather, burnt grass and new football smell puts a measured weight on the intensity of said reek, but there’s no doubting its volume.  But there’s more than just peat on the palate, a sweet, spicy and mossy symphony with smooth smoke, chocolate orange, candied ginger and suede flavours, a lovely balance of peat-induced and other notes.  This is an impressively complex dram for a 10 Year, and just an obscene value for $64, a price that made me do a complete double-take.  If you don’t mind a bit of smokiness, this is an absolute can’t-lose proposition.  It’s even cheaper than The Maritime Malt!  Value whisky squared.

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