Benriach Distillery’s eclectic new range arrives in Australia

Speyside’s Benriach Distillery has begun the Australian rollout of its single malt whisky range, remodelled by new owner Brown-Forman.

American distiller Brown-Forman recognised the need to streamline the Benriach portfolio when it acquired the distillery in 2016, according to global brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan.

“If you were to come to a whisky show and look at the Benriach range, I would have had 35 different expressions to show you,” he told drinks media in a recent online tasting.

“That’s quite confusing, but it was exciting at the time.”

Benriach global brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan
Benriach global brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan

Buchanan said the eclectic portfolio was the result of unbridled innovation by Benriach since its re-opening in 1965, starting with its pursuit of the classically sweet, fruity Speyside whisky style.

“Every part of the process was driving towards this orchard fruit character, with that sweet honey note running through the new make spirit, even prior to filling it into cask,” he said.

“That for me is the DNA of the distillery itself.”

Then in the 1970s, Benriach used its floor maltings to create a heavily peated style of whisky, reminiscent of what it produced in the 1800s.

“In the Speyside area, that was very different,” Buchanan said.

“Everybody had left peat behind, and Benriach was the first distillery to start using that high peated malt through the production.”

The new Benriach core range
The new Benriach core range

The twists continued with the introduction of triple distillation for some of its whiskies in 1998.

“That’s very unusual for single malt whisky, never mind Speyside whisky,” Buchanan said.

“Normally that’s more an Irish style of production.”

Then in 2004, Buchanan said Benriach began expanding its wood policy to ultimately encompass no less than 35 different cask types and sizes.

“While we weren’t the first, we certainly were one of the very early adopters of building flavour in the warehouse,” he said.

“Benriach has always done something different.

“We’re always driving for these different flavour complexities through our production, even before selecting casks.”

Taking the reigns in the warehouse, esteemed master blender Dr Rachel Barrie set about crafting a more disciplined, yet no less characterful line-up of whiskies.

“In the new Original Ten, a more richly flavoured, rounded malt character might be discerned, whilst The Twelve balances richly sherried malt with added layers of fruit complexity, reaching a pinnacle at twelve years old,” Barrie says.

“The new Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve explore the sweet smokiness of Benriach, enriched through innovative combinations of rum, virgin oak and marsala casks interwoven with more traditional bourbon and sherry.”

There is also a new recipe for Benriach’s richly sherried twelve year old whisky, complemented by the addition of port and bourbon cask whiskies for smoothness and complexity.

At the pinnacle are a premium selection of 21, 25 and 30-year-old single malts, each matured in a contrasting array of casks interwoven with complex layers of refined and mellow smoke.

Meanwhile, the new packaging takes inspiration from the first Benriach Single Malt released over two decades ago, with a colour palette inspired by Speyside’s natural environment in which the distillery sits.

The Original Ten, Smoky Ten and new-look Original 12 are currently being rolled out to Australian stores, with the Smoky 12 to follow sometime after Christmas.

The 21, 25 and 30 year-olds will arrive in the country in 2022.

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Author: James Atkinson

Journalist specialising in the food, drink, travel and hospitality arenas. Australian International Beer Awards 2017 Media Award Winner and Certified Cicerone®.

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