Whisky Reviews: BenRiach Cask Edition Selections

Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as review samples by Benriach. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

Founder John Duff opened the BenRiach Distillery in 1898 on the site of the old Riach farm in the northern Speyside region of Scotland. This single malt distillery produces three distinct whisky styles: classic unpeated, Highland peated, and triple distilled. It uses water sourced from the mineral-rich aquifer beneath the distillery grounds to craft its spirits, along with several different cask types from around the world.

Dubbed “sleeping beauties,” the eclectic cask types used to mature BenRiach’s whisky include sherry, port, Madeira wine, Marsala wine, Jamaican rum, and Kentucky bourbon. The mashing process uses four – instead of the usual three – batches of mineral-rich water. While it may take a little longer, this technique allows the whisky to achieve an extra level of sweetness from the barley.

For its peated whisky, BenRiach uses peat from the Highlands of Scotland, which has a sweet, smoky woodland peat profile that’s less medicinal than West Coast peat, like the kind used on Islay. According to its website, “BenRiach Distillery holds the oldest and rarest peated inventory in Speyside, dating back to 1975.”

In the Cask Editions, BenRiach Distillery’s Master Blender, Dr. Rachel Barrie uses BenRiach’s eclectic selection of casks to explore the flavor possibilities of Speyside single malt. These periodically released editions are hand selected by Barrie and offer a unique taste of BenRiach’s fruit-laden character. In a prepared statement, Barrie said, “Each cask will tell its own story of a journey of flavor where the spirit is married with oak, over years and through the seasons, to really create a unique moment in time never to be repeated again.”

In 2015, BenRiach was voted Global Whisky Distiller of the Year at the Icons of Whisky Awards. Prior to that it was awarded the 2015 “Icons of Scotland” Whisky Distiller of the Year. 

This review focuses on three selections from BenRiach’s Cask Edition Collection. They include the 2009 (12 Year) – Cask #3812: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon, the 1998 (23 Year) – Cask #10297: Marsala, and the 1997 (24 Year) – Cask #15058: Oloroso Puncheon. These whiskies from single casks aged 12-24 years showcase the Speyside distillery’s variety of eclectic cask styles.

Benriach Cask Edition US review

Benriach Cask Edition US (image via Benriach)

Tasting Notes: BenRiach Pedro Ximénez Puncheon Cask 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Cask #3812

Vital Stats: Peated single malt, 642 bottles available in: CA, KY, OR, WA, GA, MA, and NY; 116.4 proof (58.2% ABV), 700 ml bottle SRP $100, bottled in Scotland.

Appearance: Chestnut/Oloroso sherry

Nose: This whisky starts with a clean moderate burn on the nose with peaty, smoky, earthy notes of vanilla, caramel, and raw pear. It’s slightly grassy with a hint of sea salt. 

Palate: Apple cinnamon, black pepper, and butterscotch flavors appear on the palate along with hints of lemon zest, sugared raisins, and spicy honey. 

Final Thoughts: This is a highly complex whisky with a thick texture that’s initially silky and delicate upon first sip. It really coats the tongue and roof of the mouth for an exceptionally long finish with flavors of silky spicy honey, sugar coated raisins, and orchard fruit. The flavors are well balanced and intensify brilliantly on the palate after subsequent sips.

Score: 5/5

Tasting Notes: BenRiach Marsala Cask 23 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Cask #10297

Vital Stats: Single malt aged in a Marsala Wine hogshead. 264 bottles available in AZ, CO, IL, DE, DC, FL, MD, NV, PA, SC, and WI; 110.8 proof (55.4% ABV), 700 ml bottle SRP $330. 

Appearance: Chestnut/Oloroso sherry

Nose: It starts with a moderate burn on the nose with a delicious aroma highlighted by notes of cut grass, bright citrus, cherry, and fruit jelly. 

Palate: This whisky has a very complex flavor profile that includes notes of nectarine, butterscotch, and berries, with surprising hints of buttery coffee and fresh chocolate cake. The well rounded notes of apple and green pepper on the back end provide a scintillating burn that doesn’t let go. 

Final Thoughts: This expression has a long finish that’s full of well balanced flavors to discover. Richly aromatic with bright fruitiness, it’s not exactly a departure from the traditional flavor profile whisky lovers have come to expect from their Scotch. Instead, it cleverly captures the flavor potential of Scotland’s centuries old beloved spirit. 

Score: 5/5

Tasting Notes: BenRiach Oloroso Puncheon Cask 24 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Cask #15058

Vital Stats: Peated single malt aged in an Oloroso puncheon. 641 bottles available in GA, MA, NY, and additional major metro markets; 110.8 proof (55.4% ABV), 700 ml bottle SRP $380.

Appearance: Chestnut/Oloroso sherry

Nose: It starts with a moderate nose burn with notes of cedar, cut grass, and cinnamon apple. 

Palate: The plate has a medicinal burn with notes of dried apple, black pepper, and dried leather. 

Final Thoughts: I found this whisky to be a bit dry, with a finish that has a lingering spiciness with medicinal notes and not much complexity of flavor. A few flavors I could detect included black pepper, dried apple, and dried leather. This straightforward spirit may be preferred by the more experienced Scotch enthusiast than those who are newer to it. 

Score: 3.5/5

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