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BenRiach owes its existence to an enterprising gentleman by the name of John Duff. One-time manager of Glendronach distillery, Duff left in 1876 to launch his own business at Glenlossie. In 1888 however, he sold his share in the company to his partners and emigrated with his family to South Africa.
Duff it seemed was a man with a plan and in the southern hemisphere he attempted to kick-start something of a distilling revolution. Alas, the project met with little support and completely failed to get off the ground. Undaunted however, Duff next made for the United States where again, he failed to gain traction and was forced to leave the country, empty handed.
Returning home to Speyside, Duff partnered with local investors and created the Longmorn distillery in the shadow of the Grampian Mountains, by the River Lossie. In 1897 he sought to expand with the construction of another distillery on adjoining land and employed the services of famed architect Charles C. Doig to design. Unlike the majority of Doig-built plants which were laid out in an ‘E’ shape however, this new distillery was arranged in two lines of buildings either side of a railway extension, so that supplies could be delivered right to the doorstep.
Despite such a practical design however, Duff’s old misfortune was soon to strike again when the industry downturn of the early 20th century saw him left penniless and forced to sell BenRiach to his partners at Longmorn. They soon deemed the young distillery surplus to requirements and shut it down, sparing it from demolition only that they may continue to use the onsite malting floor to supply their primary concern next door.
BenRiach remained in silence for more than 60 years before the site was rebuilt and reopened by Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. For the next 4 decades the distillery passed from one owner to the next, churning out it’s spirit only for it to be gobbled up by the thirsty blending houses.
Then in 2004 came something of a rebirth. A consortium of investors led by Geoff Bell and Wayne Keiswetter in partnership with a master blender of more than 30 years experience in the form of Billy Walker, purchased the distillery and set about promoting it as a single malt in it’s own right.
BenRiach soon began to gain a reputation and success allowed the company to expand in 2008 with the acquisition of Glendronach distillery, later followed in 2013 by Glenglassaugh. Such growth soon caught the attention of US drinks corporation Brown-Forman, owner of the world famous Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey brand, who were encouraged to buy the company in its entirety for a whopping £281 million in 2016.
Unlike many of its Speyside neighbours, BenRiach spends part of the year producing peated whisky with various expressions of both peated and unpeated spirit, matured in an array of different casks released over the years. The standard 10 year old however is bottled at 43% abv and presents a far more recognisable Speyside character. It retails in the UK for around £30 a bottle.
Smell: Green Fruits – Apple and Pear. Hay, Vanilla, Buttery Biscuit & Malt.
Taste: Toffee, Vanilla, Apple, Cream, Biscuit, Salt and a little Pepper, soft Oak notes at the finish.
Value for Money: A very pleasant entry level Speyside dram, though I must admit, I would prefer to see it bottled at 46%, in line with the rest of the range.
Good flavour and decent complexity make this BenRiach an excellent option in the 10 – 12 year old category. In truth it pales in comparison to some of the other bottlings from this distillery but that is due to their exceptional quality, rather than any failings in the 10 year old.
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