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BenRiach distillery was constructed in 1898 on land adjacent to the Longmorn distillery in Speyside. Alas, the timing of its opening could hardly have been worse and after producing spirit for just two years, the distillery fell victim to the cataclysmic events which were shaking the entirety of the industry at the time.
In 1887, Walter and Robert Pattison began blending whisky at their Edinburgh dairy wholesaler. Scotch was booming at the time and Pattisons Ltd achieved great success in the emerging market, investing in distilleries like Glenfarclas, Aultmore and Oban.
The Brothers soon became known for their lavish lifestyle with marble-clad offices, spacious townhouse accommodation and grand country retreats. In their heyday they employed more than 150 salesmen and even sent 500 parrots, trained to say ‘Buy Pattison’s Whisky’, to their stockists. Their advertising bill for 1898 alone was a staggering £60,000.
It seems however, that much of the Pattison success had been built on credit which had been loaned by over-eager banks during boom-time. The moment the industry suffered a downturn, lenders began to call in their debts, shining a spotlight on the business practices of the Pattisons and exposing some dodgy dealings. The company inevitably collapsed, owing some £743,000 and creating a huge knock-on effect for the rest of the industry.
As a result of the crash, Robert Pattison was jailed for 18 months for fraud and embezzlement while his brother Walter, got 9. The ‘Pattison’s Whisky’ brand disappeared forever and left behind a vastly changed landscape. Pattisons largest competitor at the time was the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL) who were able to ride out the worst of the crash and snap up Pattison assets at bargain prices – leaving them in a much strengthened position when the dust settled (DCL went on to become Diageo – the biggest Spirits company in the world). Others though, were not so fortunate…
BenRiach was forced to close in 1900 and remained silent for 65 long years. Only its proximity to sister distillery Longmorn saved it from complete demolition with its malting floor still in regular use. Then, in 1965, a new whisky boom saw new distilleries being built and old ones re-opened… Production resumed at BenRiach and has carried on uninterrupted ever since. Today the distillery is independently owned by the BenRiach Distillery Company who have recently expanded by purchasing both the GlenDronach and Glengassaugh distilleries in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
The whisky produced at BenRiach is in many ways typical of its region though they have also defied tradition by experimenting with peated malt. Their 12 year old Sherry Wood is bottled at 46% ABV and usually retails at around £35 – £40.
Smell: Sherry Trifle, Brown Sugar, Cherry, Raisins and Orange
Taste: Fruit Cake, Marzipan, Dark Chocolate and Caramel – even a touch of Maple Syrup.
Value: Natural Colour, Non Chill Filtered, delicious … and all for £35?? Yes please!
There’s no other way to put it, this is an excellent dram at an excellent price.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.