Three in a row
BenRiach, GlenDronach & GlenGlassaugh Tasting – 29th May 2015
Dispite owning three distilleries the company is still called The BenRiach Distilling Company, and is owned by the charismatic Billy Walker and his two partners Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter. Billy brought BenrRiach in 2004, in 2008 he purchased GlenDronach distillery, and finally added GlenGlassaugh in March 2013. We were very privileged to have Stewart Buchanan, who is now the world wide brand ambassador for the group, however it still lists him as BenRiach Distillery Manager on the web site. Stewart is travelling the world for five years in order to raise the profile of the three distilleries brands.
We start at the end as it were with GlenGlassaugh. This distillery situated at Portsoy, right on the beach overlooking the Moray Firth, originally opened in 1875 and was mothballed in 1986. It was re-opened in December 2008 by a group of enthusiastic investors. It was brought by Billy in 2013.
Well what a great way to start. Matured in a well used sherry cask, it wasn’t too woody, it was rich, rounded, full bodied, very fruity, mango and pineapple mixing with plumbs and dried fruit.
You might think that any whisky which follows a 30 year old of this calibre will be a little disappointing, but this Torfa was anything but. It is a smoky peaty whisky made with barley that is peated to 50 Phonals PPM – or Laphroig/Ardbeg peaty. But it’s not at all like these Islay whiskies, the peat used by Glenglassaugh has more wood content as opposed to the seaweed content of the Islay and Hebredian peat. The upshot is that the Torfa is not so maritime or medicinal. It’s got a softer sweet smoky flavour, plenty of Vanilla, and defiantly seems older than 4 years old. If you are thinking that I’m the only one who thought it was good, this was the best seller on the night – we sold out.
When Billy Walker started to work in the whisky industry back in the 60’s the one distillery that everyone looked up to was GlenDronach. They produced a big rich whisky matured in sherry casks which was sort after by blenders. When it was up for sale, in 2008, Billy just had to buy it. The 12 year old is typical of GlenDronach fully matured in sherry casks 80% European Oak ex-Oloroso Sherry casks, and 20% white American oak ex-Pedro Ximenex casks. PX is a very sticky rich sweet sherry which gives the whisky a sweet syrupy finish, it has all the attributes you expect from a sherry cask whisky, richness, dark chocolate, coffee. It has great depth for a 12 year old, not surprisingly as a lot of 13,14 and 15 year old whisky is also used in the bottlings.
They call this the Allardice after the founder of the distillery James Allardice. This expression is all matured in Oloroso sherry casks. An old fashioned style of whisky all rich flavours, big bold, drier on the finish than the 12, deeper and richer. Stewed fruits, Saville oranges, plain chocolate, makes you want to just sit in a leather armchair, by the fire.
Our last three were all from BenRiach – but all quite different. BenRich is in the heart of Speyside just outside Elgin. It was founded in 1897 at the height of a whisky boom. Billy brought it in 2004. This expression is very new only being out for a few weeks. BenRiach tends to be a lighter sweeter whisky which picks up the flavours from the cask well, and this is the case with the 10 y/o. They use both ex sherry and ex bourbon casks in the maturation. I suspect a higher proportion of white American oak bourbon casks as the whisky is lighter fresher, apple, pears lemon as well as spice and creamy barley. A great summer whisky.
Also not been out very long, actually when we first had this a bottle was released from stock for research purposes and we all loved it. As it says on the label this is all sherry cask matured whisky, 50% Oloroso Casks, 50% Pedro Ximenez casks. It still is fresh and light but with some richer fruity notes, like a soft moist fruit cake. A fantastic all round dram.
BenRiach produces peaty whisky as well as unpeated lighter spirit. The Authenticus is a peaty one. It takes a great deal of skill to produce a really good old peaty whisky. The problem is that the older the whisky the more wood influence and the less barley influence. The peatyness is in the barley so too much aging is taking out the character of a peaty whisky, it’s all about the balance between wood and grain. Luckily we have Billy Walker who is one of the few who can get that balance just right. This expression has been aged to perfection, big bold, more subtle smoke, again not medicinal, maritime peaty, with everything you expect from an old whisky. Just have to sit, sip and enjoy it.
Our thanks to Stewart and all our guests for a great evening.