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Benrinnes and the Great Moray Floods
The Benrinnes distillery was founded in its present location in 1835 but an earlier business had operated nearby until a dramatic natural disaster put an end to it. Founded by Peter McKenzie in 1826, it was completely destroyed in the somewhat nightmarish floods of 1829.
That years summer had begun with unusually warm weather and drought but conditions soon changed, with strong winds and regular rain. By night the Aurora Borealis lit the skies, brighter than it had ever been before. It illuminated the Moray-shire countryside like some terrible warning of what was to come.
July brought rain, swollen rivers and streams to dangerous levels that worsened by the day. 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 3am 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. A torrent of water swept across the land and destroyed 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 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.
Thoughts: A dram of decent age with an unusual character for a very reasonable price. Benrinnes is fast becoming something of a favourite distillery. Like Mortlach, it seems to offer a weightier, beefier take on the light, fruity character of a traditional Speyside dram. It’s a big, chewy belter of a dram that’s frighteningly drinkable and it won’t break the bank. Ideal.