Benrinnes Mega-Review [11 Signatory 1997, 14 Hart Brothers, 14 Lady of the Glen, 14 1998 A.D. Rattray, 15 Flora & Fauna, 15 Darkness! Oloroso, 15 Darkness! PX, 17 Signatory 1997, 17 S.M.W.S. 36.82, 18 The Ultimate 1995]

B1

Today I’m reviewing 10 different offerings from multiple sources of Benrinnes. Some of you may ask “Why? Why would you let the cat out of the bag?”

Well, first up, Benrinnes is an interesting Speyside distillery. They triple distill, they have been mothballed twice, and they were known for being used in blends. Also they are owned by Diageo, yet haven’t been universally panned by the Scotch community.

Also they are about to become double distilled instead of third, so it’s a good idea to review the old before the new comes in.

Yet my real reason is thus: I was out at a whisky tasting a few months ago, and someone ordered a Benrinnes. Why? Because they assumed that, based on reviews by /u/texacer and others, that Benrinnes wasn’t that great. Because Sarcasm doesn’t always land across writing as a medium.

So I’m reviewing them, without sarcasm, for you today.

So… let’s see how Benrinnes’ tastes, shall we?


B3

Benrinnes 11 Signatory 1997 Cask Strength

Thanks to /u/HawkI84 for the swap on this binny’s exclusive.

So I’m going in order of age. Because that makes sense to me.

Up first we have a Benrinnes that was aged for a short about of time, and not in sherry casks. Or finished in sherry casks.

You’ll hear a lot of people talk about avoiding these ones. I specifically hunted them down. Why? Because I’m bad at listening to people.

Also I wanted to see if they were as bad as some say. Or not as good as the sherry cask ones. So that’s where we’re at. It’s ex-Bourbon hogshead, and it’s from the 90s. Sounds like most of the bands I listened to at the time.

B2

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Cask Number: 93

Bottle Number: 167/267

Distilled: 25/11/1997

Bottled: 21/08/2009

Cask Type: Single Hogshead

Region: Speyside

Abv: 59.3%

Colour: 7.5Y 7/4

Nose: Vanilla, floral, lemon, linen, cream, corn muffins, mandarin orange

This doesn’t act like a young malt. Big, interested, and mostly floral flavours. Eventually has a ton of fruit and bakery notes as well.

I’m quite surprised. Reminds me of a Lowland at times, yet with more cojones.

Taste: Ginger, orange, lemon pepper, creme de menthe, butter, cream, apple

Somewhat boozy on the flavour. Showing it’s age. That said, there hasn’t been corners cut on this one. It’s strong, yet that pepper note is from the malt (see more later).

Also I love creme de menthe, so I’m a sucker for this. Also tastes like apple pie, so that’s pretty sweet.

Finish: Ginger, cinnamon, pork tenderloin, apple, oatmeal, parsley, sultanas, pine

Meaty. Really meaty. Which is cool. Also pine-y. Really pine-y. Which isn’t so much.

Conclusion: So… this needs some more time in the barrel. Or maybe it doesn’t.

It has those young traits in it. Which come with good and bad parts. The good? It has some unique, cool flavours. The bad? It’s pine-y and the pepper elements haven’t been that well tamed, which is hard with Benrinnes (I said see more later. Geez, impatient much?).

All in all, this is a unique malt, and for that reason alone, you should pick it up.

82/100


B5

Benrinnes 14 Hart Brothers

Thanks to /u/devoz for a sample of this in a recent swap.

Hart Brothers is an Independent Bottler that I haven’t had much experience with. They seem to run the gamut on what they do: Sometimes they lower it to 46%, sometimes they leave it as cask strength. Some of their malts are young, some are old.

I also love that they didn’t officially incorporate until 1964, starting before that in the outskirts of town as victualers and publicans.

Just can’t find victualers and publicans these days. Especially in Canada. It’s a crying shame.

This is yet another ex-Bourbon Benrinnes, yet this time it’s not cask strength. Let’s see how it stands up?

B4

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Distilled: November 1997

Bottled: April 2012

Region: Speyside

Abv: 46%

Colour: 7.5Y 7/6

Nose: Pineapple, cumin, straw, violets, cedar, pepper, wet dog

Fruity at first. Almost like a rum, with some burnt elements and some spice. Eventually there’s some elements of floral again, which is nice, yet the youth again comes out with the pepper and cedar.

Not to mention there’s a wet dog note that I am not a fan of. I can see why you prepare dog with tons of spice when you cook it, as this isn’t a tasty note.

Taste: Oak, lemon, passion fruit, caramel, floral, earth

Very oak and fruit forward. No longer as peppery or cedar-y. Back to being like a Lowland. And now there’s an earth note.

Not overtly complex, yet nice to sip on. Good flavour to it overall, nothing taking too much flavour on it.

Finish: Lemon, mango, orange, grassy, pepper, balsamic vinegar, orange rind, salt

Big fruit notes. Some pepper is back, which could be the name of this review series. Also a vinegar note that I’m not that big of a fan of. Granted I don’t like vinegar that much.

Kinda bitter here (paging /u/reddbdb[4] [+10]).

Conclusion: For something that I was told would taste like wet cardboard, this is pretty good. I actually liked it more than not. Yes, there’s a rough note in the nose and the finish eventually becomes too acidic, however I think this is a pretty good malt for what you get.

I’d at least have a dram of it some time.

77/100


B7

Benrinnes 14 Lady of the Glen (Hannah Whisky Merchants)

Thanks to past me for buying this and then keeping it around to include it as part of a multi-review.

So, we’re onto the first sherried Benrinnes, of which I was told to not get by /u/texacer. And of course, I didn’t listen.

Or I understood sarcasm and happened to be up really late the night he posted all of his Benrinnes’ posts.

Lady of the Glen is a new Independent Bottler. So red flag. However they are from Fife, so… yellow card? Anyway, they decided to do something big for their first release, and created a cask strength Benrinnes that was done in sherry butts. Oh, and there was only 86 bottles of it.

Shit, that takes ovaries, balls, and hell, even a cloaca to pull that off. I’m impressed.

And that was on purpose: You see, Lady of the Glen specializes in rare whiskies. And puts their name on the line to follow it up, to ensure that what they are selling meets those requirements.

Of course I didn’t know this, otherwise this sample wouldn’t have sat for 2 years. Oh well. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

B6

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Cask Type: Ex-sherry butt

Region: Speyside

Abv: 57.8%

Colour: 5YR 5/8

Nose: Raspberry, lemon sparkling water, ginger, taro, floral, cider, pineapple

Big fruit notes, and each one is different. Tart is good word to describe this, but well balanced as well. Even has some Japanese notes (taro), which I was not expecting at all.

Good use of earth and fruit. Other distilleries: Take note. And tell me who you are, because if you’re reading this, I may swoon.

Taste: Framboise, sugar shack in the middle of winter, lemon, ginger, caramel, strawberry/rhubarb turnover, Spring

Yes, it tastes like winter memories and spring memories. That’s a big first. For me. Ever. I may be hard while drinking this.

Maybe.

Finish: Apple, ginger, nutmeg, raspberry pie, anise, salish, baking Xmas cookies with a sugary topping, coffee

Wow. More here. I am torn on the finish. It’s good, yet doesn’t meet the standards the taste had. It’s on par with the really cool nose. And tasty as heck.

Memories again

Conclusion: So this is freaking amazing. I’d say buy a bottle, yet… their all gone. Because it’s amazing. And I can see why people say Benrinnes is amazing out of sherry casks, because this is amazing. And tasty. I’m so lucky to have it.

The score may seem low: Reason being is I feel that the finish was short and not as super complex as the taste. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THIS IS A BAD DRAM!

88/100


B8

Benrinnes 14 1998 A.D. Rattray

Thanks to my parents for picking this up for me in the US where I legally ordered it to their summer vacation house.

So here’s another one recommended/not recommended by /u/texacer. I believe he once teased me about drinking “bad drams” while I had this around.

This has been something of a weekly dram for me. It’s really tasty. And seems to evaporate quite quickly.

In theory, it should be the same as the Lady of the Glen. Yet it’s a different Abv. And potentially a different butt. So let’s see the differences, shall we?

B9

Price: N/A in Ontario

Cask Number: 6864

Number of Bottles: 449

Date Distilled: 02.09.1998

Date Bottled: 21.09.2012

Cask Type: Sherry Butt

Region: Speyside

Abv: 55.2%

Colour: 5YR 4/8

Nose: Ginger, juniper, apple, cassia buds, mint, mango, vanilla custard

Wow. Starts out different than what I was expecting. No red fruits, rather a gin/spice mix and a lot of apple. Big vanilla notes as well.

Taste: Peach, cinnamon, apple, strawberry, ham, lemongrass, honey

Now we have some fruit! It’s like walking down Church and Jarvis up in here! In a great way!

In addition to the big fruit flavours, there’s some unique Indian and Easter notes here. Really tasty. Not as big as the Lady of the Glen though.

Finish: Cocoa, ginger, pepper, eucalyptus, floral, pineapple, pear upside down cake, lemon

This finish is longer, and I’d say more Benrinnes than the one before it. More floral/mint/pepper notes, and the lemon that I’m used to is back.

Conclusion: What I’ll say is this: The Lady of the Glen did the whole Big Sherry Bomb thing better. This is still tasty, yet it doesn’t go to that big sherry place. And while it’s pretty amazing, it doesn’t pass my bullshit test of setting off memories.

It’s still amazing though. And able to be found, since there’s 373 more bottles of this than there are of the Lady of the Glen. It’s a different sherry experience, really, and you’d do a lot worse ordering other whiskies.

85/100


B11

Benrinnes 15 Flora & Fauna

Thanks to /u/cake_my_day for a sample of this

And now for the only OB on the list. Why? Because I couldn’t get anyone to swap me some Benrinnes 23. Also I think that the LCBO requires you sacrifice your son in order to buy it for the few seconds they may have had it.

The Flora & Fauna series was brought out by Diageo to showcase the distilleries they own that are used in blends. This was a pretty smart move on Diageo’s part. It tests the waters, releases whiskies that are automatically collectable (regardless of how good they are), and ensures that they seem like they like the fans.

All in all, pretty good. That’s David Cameron levels of dastardly planning.

So this is the Benrinnes from this series. And also the lowest Abv. of a Benrinnes I could find. But that may not be a hindrance. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

B10

Price: N/A in Ontario

Region: Speyside

Abv: 43%

Colour: 2.5YR 4/6

Nose: Grapefruit, cherry medicine, marmalade, green apple, Ben Gay, pollen

Okay… this has some nice fruit notes, some floral, and then the notes of the medicine cabinet blowing up in your face.

Hard to tell if I like it or not. The Ben Gay is not doing it any favours.

Taste: Peach, mushroom, apple, ginger, tart, cardboard, anise

Okay, so there’s some fruit, some spice… nothing too developed, yet… wait…

Crap, there’s the cardboard I was warned about. Dammit Diageo, you are not helping yourselves here.

Finish: Apple, alcohol, spruce, sea salt, raspberry, menthol cigarettes

Okay, a little too low Abv is bringing out the pine/alcohol notes, which sucks, yet there’s also some fruit… which kinda saves it.

I hate cigarettes. Just can’t stand them. And this tastes like kissing a smoker. Not a fun dram.

Conclusion: It’s bad. Not super bad, but it’s fill with bad notes. The taste saves it from falling too low, yet just barely. Honestly it’s just not worth drinking due to the rough notes throughout. I really am sad that this exists.

Oh well. I’d avoid this one, or at least have a dram of it first before buying a bottle.

70/100


B13

Benrinnes Darkness! 15 Oloroso Cask Finish

Thanks to /u/Scotch_Fanatic for the sample.

The Darkness! series is a silly thing. Or a genius one. I can’t decide.

So we know we want interesting casks. And sherry casks are hard to come by. So Master of Malt decide to make their own small casks, fill them with sherry, then dump it, and hyper age other spirits for three months after that.

It seems like a gimmick. Or it may be very smart. I don’t really know. What I do know is I at least want to give them credit for trying to find a cool way to do things.

So this is cask strength, sherry finished. And specifically finished in Oloroso sherry, which is a dry sherry.

B12

Price: N/A in Ontario

Region: Speyside

Abv: 52.9%

Colour: 2.5YR 3/8

Nose: Plum, orange sorbet, blackberries, pepper, cumin, anise, chipotle, marmalade, caramel sauce cake

Okay, yes, this is sherried. I was worried it would only have a little sherry elements to it, but hot damn, this has a lot of sherry to it.

The pepper/anise notes of Benrinnes are pushed up by the sherry notes. It’s really spicy.

Taste: Orange, cinnamon, raspberry, ginger, blueberry, butter, lemon cake

Alright, not as big as the nose would have you think. Reminds me more of a Amontillado sherry cask than an Oloroso cask, as there’s more citrus.

Love the butter notes though.

Finish: Yeast, pound cake, lots of pepper, cardamom, more pepper, wet radicchio, mace, almond/cherry

Odd… Oloroso is known for not having a yeasty taste. Yet the first thing I tasted was yeast.

The pepper here is way too intense. It takes up so much of the flavour on the finish that I’m having trouble

Conclusion: You can’t hurry love, no you can’t rush a thing, it’s all a game of give and take…

Wait, what?

Okay, you can’t rush whisky. And while this has a baller nose, and a nice taste, the finish has suffered due to the rush on the finish. Or something. I don’t know. The Oloroso is doing some funky things.

I like it, yet I have to dock marks for the finish being unbalanced as fuck.

81/100


B15

Benrinnes Darkness! 15 Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish

Thanks to /u/Scotch_Fanatic for the sample.

Another Darkness! series. This one done with PX sherry instead which will give us something different.

PX grapes are grown just to make PX sherry, which is dark and really sweet. It’s a varietal that’s mostly grown in Spain for just this type of sherry. Or to be put in casks and eventually sent to Scotland for the whisky.

It’s also dried before being used, which ups the amount of sweetness and adds a really powerful flavour. Honestly, if you’ve never tried a wine with a dried grape, you’re missing out.

B14

Price: N/A in Ontario

Region: Speyside

Abv: 53.3%

Colour: 2.5YR 2/8

Nose: Red licorice, anise, ginger, pepper, tarragon, wintergreen gum, dill

Not as big as the Oloroso Darkness! above. It’s more herbal, takes more of the dram and mixes it with the sweet notes of the sherry.

More balanced overall.

Taste: Strawberry, watermelon, mint, nutmeg, floral, caramel, cherry

Again, more balanced, and this time the sherry is coming through and blending with the Benrinnes’ flavour profile.

The balance on this dram is really quite interesting. It’s a little watery overall, yet that somehow works in this case (and in this case only)

Finish: Currant, nutmeg, papaya, arugula, sweet potato, maple syrup, coffee, marzipan

Nice finish. It’s lacking the rough notes the one before it had, and has this cool earth/sweet tone throughout that meshes a lot better with it.

Conclusion: I have a theory: So Oloroso sherry is made by suppressing the yeast in the initial stage of fermentation. I suspect that some of that yeast stayed, and thus the Oloroso was so different from other Oloroso casks.

In the PX case, because this isn’t a requirement for PX sherry, nothing changed, and thus we ended up with the excellent notes from PX that we like.

So yes, go for this one over the other. It is that much better, with a better finish, overall balance, and an okay (yet not as amazing) nose.

83/100


B17

Benrinnes 17 Signatory 1997 Single Barrel Un-Chillfiltered Collection (K&L Exclusive)

Thanks again to /u/kilrathi for the sample yet another Benrinnes so I can make this silly review series.

I’ve had a bunch of the Un-Chillfiltered Series. And I can say, with some certainty, that I like them alright, though I typically avoid them.

Why? Well because of the low Abv. It’s a problem. Some are good, some are just okay.

Yet this one is different. It’s single cask. It’s a K&L Exclusive. And it’s Cask Strength. All that put together, and I’m interested.

Also someone will swap it to me, so I’m very interested.

So we’re finishing with ex-Bourbon casks again, to see if the wet cardboard note persists into older drams.

So let’s see how this wet cardboard tastes, shall we?

B16

Price: N/A in Ontario

Cask Number: 262

Distilled on: 27.02.1997

Bottled on: 28.04.2014

Matured in: Hogshead

Region: Speyside

Abv: 52.1%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/8

Nose: Pasty, lemon, grapefruit, floral, coconut oil, green melon, mango

Cornish Pasty. Not those things you put on your tits while running or dancing for your wife.

Very earthy and citrusy. Good clean notes, shows off the floral notes again quite well.

Taste: Vanilla custard, mustard, dill, lemon pepper, quince

Wow. Very earthy. Kinda like drinking a bourbon. The dill doesn’t mesh well with the vanilla notes, and the quince is a floral note, so it kinda works and kinda doesn’t.

Finish: Galliano, custard, plum, Buggles, mint, caramel, salt, raspberry, curry

Good finish. Lots of bourbon flavours again in it. Which is odd. I’m not used to that.

The finish works where the taste didn’t. It has fruit, vanilla, dessert flavours and some salty notes to balance that out. The curry adds some heat and earth, which I didn’t mind.

Conclusion: What an odd ass dram. It smells light and clean, has a weird ass dill infused taste, and then finishes with a sweet and salty nice mix.

It’s like dating that one girl who always studies and likes going to the library, who ends up being wicked in bed and really awkward.

Sell that screenplay to Hollywood, again!

Anyway, it’s an odd dram. And it tastes a lot like bourbon. That’s not a bad thing, yet doesn’t always work out for the best. If you’re into that, go for it.

80/100


B19

Benrinnes 17 S.M.W.S. 36.82 “A Grand Dame in a Greenhouse”

Thanks to /u/kilrathi for the sample of this hard to find dram.

I’ve done quite a few S.M.W.S reviews, and if I could order from them in Ontario, I probably would have done something stupid by now and had a membership (stupid because I’ve been unemployed for the last month).

None the less, this is a rare release, only sold though K&L.

So what we have are two Benrinnes, both K&L exclusives, aged differently in different cask sizes, both in ex-bourbon casks. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.

This is like a microcosm of whisky. Will one be good and the other bad? Will I get a job (I did, yay me)? Will our plucky hero defeat the Mutants of the wastes? Stay tuned for (at least) one of the answers!

B20

Price: N/A in Ontario

Cask Number: 36.82

Number of Bottles: 198

Distilled: 25.11.1996

Bottled: 2014

Cask Type: Refill Ex-Bourbon Barrel

Region: Speyside

Abv: 59.1%

B18

Colour: 5Y 7/8

Nose: Raspberry, wheat, honey, grape, ginger, malt, oak, plantains, ancho chili

If I didn’t know better, I say this was done in a sherry cask. Really nice fruit and spice in the nose. Has some unique notes, big flavours, and well balanced.

Taste: Grape, raspberry, butterscotch, ginger, orange, cheddar, white cherry, mango

Again, seems like it should be a sherry cask, yet it isn’t. This is purely cool. The cheddar note is new. Like a sour note that works almost.

Or maybe I have been eating too much cheese. STAY TUNED! Wait, don’t, that’s gross.

Finish: Oak, strawberry, cinnamon, floral, rosemary, olive oil, peach, nutmeg

I may have my information wrong on this. It has to have some sherry. Otherwise they’ve pulled off a pretty amazing feat. It’s sweet, has some oily notes, and still has a nice red fruit pairing that works well.

Conclusion: Yeah, this is better. Something happened in that cask. I double checked, and all I could find was this was in an ex-Bourbon cask, so I have to take that.

It’s really good. Honestly worth the money. Well put together, really tasty, and spicy, it’ll surprise you. Beats the heck out of Signatory. Again.

85/100


B22

Benrinnes 18 The Ultimate 1995 (Cask 5889)

Thanks to /u/Scotch_Fanatic for this dram!

And finally we have one last dram from The Ultimate. The Ultimate Whisky Company is a group that is way more humble than any of us. And they are located in The Netherlands.

I’m always a little bit wary of Independent Bottlers outside of Scotland, but that’s mostly because I am a racist. No wait, that’s not it at all.

I was because I am so used to them being in Scotland. And I’ve had things from the Ultimate before that I’ve liked, so I’m not worried. Heck, I’ve had things from Michel Couvrier as well, or tons of International Whiskies and enjoyed them too.

As such, I’m excited to try this dram. It’s the second oldest Benrinnes’ I’ve ever had. Yes, it’s ex-Bourbon, and yes, it’s not cask strength, however I think we’ve seen that you can still make an okay dram without sherry or cask strength with Benrinnes.

Maybe.

B21

Price: N/A in Ontario

Cask Number: 5889

Number of Bottles: 335

Distilled: 06/06/1995

Bottled: 06/11/2013

Cask Type: Hogshead

Region: Speyside

Abv: 46%

Colour: 5Y 7/8

Nose: Mango, carrot, caramel, floral, spice cake, pepper, lemon

Sweet, reminds me of carrot cake with too much carrot in it (aka trying to be healthy and missing the damn point).

That said, the floral notes I’ve liked are still there, as are the pepper and lemon, so I’m intrigued.

Taste: Lemon nerds, caramel, watercress, plum, pepper

Watery, and not in a good way like above. It’s really light in the mouthfeel department. If somethings in my mouth, it better be thick and creamy, that’s what I say, especially if I’m paying for it.

Wait, that may sound sick…

Finish: Butter, almond, flour, peach, mushroom

Earthy, kinda raw tasting. The butter makes up, yet it doesn’t taste finished or too complex or really that nice. It’s not bad, just not… great.

Conclusion: So this is meh. It’s about as good as a Johnnie Walker Black, which isn’t a diss, however given the age and price, probably is. I’d skip it, or just have a sample. I think they did a little too much to this one, lowering the Abv too much and taking it out too soon.

Oh well. They can’t all be winners.

75/100


Scotch reviews #319-328, Speyside reviews #92-100, Whisky Network Reviews #479-488

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One thought on “Benrinnes Mega-Review [11 Signatory 1997, 14 Hart Brothers, 14 Lady of the Glen, 14 1998 A.D. Rattray, 15 Flora & Fauna, 15 Darkness! Oloroso, 15 Darkness! PX, 17 Signatory 1997, 17 S.M.W.S. 36.82, 18 The Ultimate 1995]

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