Whisky Review: BenRiach The Forty

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs. 

It isn’t every day you are tasked with reviewing a whiskey older than you. There is a solemnity which comes with drinking a forty year old Scotch whisky. This was distilled and barreled when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, the “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of the United Kingdom and the least controversial thing I’ll say is Nintendo’s Mario and Luigi became an arcade game in Japan. In the North Speyside region, south of Elgin, close to the Longmorn Distillery, BenRiach laid down a barrel which would sleep forty years before becoming a bottle of whisky.

BenRiach is a Speyside style Scotch with a special propensity for peated whisky. Speyside, historically, is famous for their non-peated profiles. BenRiach, starting in the 1970’s, bucked the trend and made small batch Scotch with highly peated spirits.

“Fine bourbon casks have gradually developed exquisite notes of honeyed pomelo and lush orchard fruits to create BenRiach ‘The Forty.’ Over the decades of maturation, the smoky character of peated BenRiach spirit refines and mellows, transforming into ripe fruit sweetness,” said its Master Blender Rachel Barrie. In fact this is the oldest peated malt ever released from a Speyside distillery.

BenRiach is a small competitor in the very intense Speyside region. Macallan, Dalwhinnie, Balvenie, Glenfarclas and Glenfiddich call Speyside home. The smallest region of Scotland is home to the largest producers of Scotch. Where MaCallan has 12 wash stills and 24 spirits stills producing 15 million liters of whisky, BenRiach has 2 wash and 2 spirit stills producing 2.8 million liters of whisky. Which is to say you’re forgiven for not knowing BenRiach is a Speyside Scotch or even exists.

From 1900 to 1965, BenRiach was a floor malting facility, producing malted barley for use by other distilleries. Shortly thereafter it began making whisky using peated malt in its whisky production. which brings us to today. This is the second forty year release from BenRiach – the first was last year as part of an NFT via Blockbar. Fortunately for consumers, the craze of NFT’s has subsided and now you can purchase your own, physical, 40-year scotch for the paltry sum of $4,500 US.

This whisky has spent a long time sleeping in oak. When it was laid down, whiskey in general was falling out of favor to clear spirits, and there was no guarantee it would ever see the light of day. A sister distillery, Glendronach, would go out and back into business while this slept. In conclusion it’s rare to drink something this old, it’s rare to encounter something like this to be totally honest.

I preface my review by saying I will do my best to give this a fair shake and responsible review. With that, we turn to the glass.

Benriach The Forty review

We review Benriach The Forty, a 40 year old, peated Speyside malt whisky matured in bourbon casks and finished in a combination of bourbon and port casks. (image via BenRiach)

Tasting Notes: BenRiach The Forty

Vital Stats: 40 year old, matured in bourbon casks and finished in a combination of bourbon and port casks, 43.5% abv, SRP $4,500.

Color: Mahogany with evenly spaced legs.

Nose: From the moment this touches the glass it smells exactly how you imagine it would. Warm and inviting oak with a soft hint of sea salt. It evolves into smelling of old books. As it warms in the glass you are entreated to chocolate covered cherries, burnt oranges, and walnut wood. The smell cascades across the nose.

Taste: The first sip, just holding it on the tongue, brings out salt brine and tobacco leaf. Throughout the sip it shows off white peach, and peat smokiness buried underneath. The mouthfeel is surprisingly watery but the abv is not particularly high which lends to the taste. It sticks to the back corners of the jaw though and settles in. As it progresses to the finish I find leather and tobacco giving way to orchard fruits like crisp apple and plum. The whisky just sits, quietly, on your tongue and waits. The alcohol warms the chest but never more than a calm ember.

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