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The Benrinnes distillery was founded in its present location in 1835, though an earlier business once operated nearby. Founded by Peter McKenzie in 1826, the original distillery was completely destroyed in the somewhat nightmarish floods of 1829.
That years summer had began with unusually warm weather and drought but conditions soon began to change, with strong winds and rain becoming regular. By night the Aurora Borealis lit the skies, brighter than it had ever been seen before, illuminating the Moray-shire countryside like some terrible warning of what was to come.
July brought rain, swelling rivers and streams to dangerous levels which seemed to worsen by the day. And then it came – great storm clouds began to gather with the arrival of August and within a few days, all hell had broken loose. 4 and a half inches of rain fell on Moray between 5am on the 3rd of August and 5am on the 4th. In his book ‘The Great Moray Floods of 1829’, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder writes ‘it came down so thick, that the very air itself seemed to be descending in one mass of water upon the earth. Nothing could withstand it.’
Across the region, rivers broke their banks. The Spey rose ten feet in just three hours, sending torrents of water sweeping across the land and destroying everything in its wake. Lives were lost and houses were wrecked, buried or swept away. Crops were annihilated and the very land torn asunder. When the water finally subsided, survivors were met with a scene of utter devastation from Inverness in the north to Abernethy in the south.
Peter McKenzie’s distillery was ruined and it lay as little more than a pile of stones for six years until a man named John Innes tasked himself with its reconstruction in 1835. Today, Benrinnes is owned by Diageo and official bottlings of the distillery’s malt are limited to a single 15 year old ‘Flora & Fauna’ offering. Fortunately however, this rather characterful dram can often be found amongst the output of independent bottlers like Morrison & MacKay.
This Carn Mor ‘Strictly Limited’ expression is made from the vatting of two Hogsheads, aged for 9 years and bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.
Smell: Wonderfully Meaty nose, Chargrilled Meats and Burnt Toast meets Baked Apples and Vanilla Cream with a touch of Pepper.
Taste: Zesty Fruits – Orange, Lemon, Lime.. Toffee, Vanilla and Caramel with a light touch of Oak Spice. Good weight on the palate.
Value for Money: A dram of decent age and unusual character for a very reasonable price.
Scores: 42 / 50.
Benrinnes is fast becoming something of a favourite distillery of mine. Like Mortlach, it seems to offer a weightier, beefier spin on the light, fruity character of a traditional speyside dram. A big, chewy belter of a dram that’s frighteningly drinkable – and it won’t break the bank.