KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 4

4 12 2016

Usually I crave new finds and tasting experiences in these calendars, but today I was pleased to open the little cardboard door and find a familiar face.  BenRiach distillery has been sort of my anti-Kilchoman through 2.2 years of KWM Whisky Advent:  this will be my fifth whisky pulled out of a calendar, and all of the previous four (2014’s trio from Day 2, Day 11 and Day 21 and 2015’s Day 16) have easily exceeded expectations.  Like many distilleries that stumbled their way through the 20th century, BenRiach’s origin story is so crazy that it’s almost unbelievable it’s still around.  It first started producing back in 1898, but a near-immediate industry crash led to it being shuttered a scant two years later, in 1900…and it stayed closed for another SIXTY-FIVE YEARS before coming out of mothballs.  That is some kind of business model.  Most distilleries nowadays are being consolidated under the umbrellas of a few giant global beverage companies, but BenRiach skewed the other way in 2004, purchased from Seagrams by three individual entrepreneurs after another stint in mothballs in 2002.  Thankfully it has stayed open since, and is churning out some beauties.

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BenRiach: quickly becoming my Old Faithful. A going concern for 118 years, but closed for over half that time.

Tonight’s BenRiach is the 12 Year from the distillery’s Wood Finishes collection, which highlights the effect of different types of aging vessels on the glorious liquid inside.  It is an eye-catching amber colour, very deep for a 12 Year (which, according to the KWM website, may be because it’s secretly a fair bit older than that).  The BenRiach 12 Year is the Sherry Cask expression, which shows itself in the sea breeze aromas lightly lingering over friendlier notes of coffee, salted caramel, clove, tangerine and Cabane a Sucre; the added approachability and sweetness associated with these smells as compared to sherry casks past comes from the partial use of dessert wine Pedro Ximenez sherry casks alongside the more rote Oloroso sherry casks.  It makes a massive difference.  The palate is rich yet focused, full of maple and fruitcake, chocolate-covered cherries and raisin, chalk and peach iced tea, all rolling up into a sweetly drying finish.  The whisky ramps up and crescendoes quickly on the tongue, then slooooooowly glides back down over at least a minute, letting you enjoy the lingering ride.  Beautiful work for $80, and another check mark in BenRiach’s PnP column.  16% done!!

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