Benrinnes whisky

The semi-official 'Flora & Fauna' bottling of Benrinnes shown at the top of the page was first released in 1991.
If I'm not mistaken, the only other semi-official release of Benrinnes was a 21yo UDRM (United Distillers Rare Malts) bottling distilled in 1974. Fortunately, independent bottlers have made dozens of different expressions available to malt whisky lovers worldwide. Especially Gordon & MacPhail has been active in this respecy with circa a dozen different bottlings. Together with Cadenhead's, Signatory Vintage and a handful of other bottlers they had released a total of circa 50 different independent bottlings of Benrinnes by the year 2008 - if the data on the MM Monitor is correct.

Benrinnes Scotch Whisky

Benrinnes  (Pronounced: benRINnes)
Speyside (Central)
5726'36.4128 N, 314'17.07 W
Glenfarclas, Daluaine, Aberlour, Glenallachie
1835
Active
Scurran Burn & Rowantree Burn
2 Wash stills, 4 Spirit stills
2.500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Diageo > UDV (since 1925)
Aberlour, Banffshire, AB38 9NN, Scotland
+441340 872600
No
No
No, although the 'Stronachie' replica is made at Benrinnes
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

Where to find Benrinnes
Benrinnes location

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Trivia about Benrinnes

1) In 1896, the Benrinnes distillery was seriously damaged by a large fire.
The owners used this as an opportunity to refurbish their malt whisky distillery and add a novelty: electricity

2) The 'look' of the Benrinnes distillery is fairly modern. That's not because it was built recently (the first distillery buildings at the site were built in 1835), but the entire distillery was reconstructed in the late 1950's.

3) During the aforementioned reconstruction, the number of stills was extended to six at that time - arranged in two sets of three stills to enable some form of triple distillation . At some point in the new millennium, this configuration was changed to two wash stills and four spirit stills.

4) In 1964 the traditional floor maltings were replaced by a more modern invention called 'Saladin Box'.
This Saladin Box at Benrinnes was used until 1984, when the distillery started buying its malted barley elsewhere.

5) The Benrinnes distillery is one of the few Scotch whisky distilleries still using worm tubs.
 

Benrinnes single malt whisky

Benrinnes 13yo 1996/2009 (57%, A. D. Rattray Cask Collection, Sherry Hogshead #6461, 315 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet, smoky and woody. Toffee and coffee. An extremely heavily sherried profile with lots of fruits.
Lighter fruits in the top of the nose. Spices emerge after a few minutes, growing complex and dominant over time.
Taste: Big and sweet with a smoky undercurrent. Perhaps not terribly refined, but right up my alley.
Quite some tannins at the end of the finish. The sweet, fruity notes provide a brilliant balance.
Score: 87 points - which makes it one of the very best expressions of Benrinnes whisky I've tried so far.
In fact, I was inclined to increase my initial score to 88 or even 89 points after a second try. Excellent!

Benrinnes 26yo 1982/2009 (57.4%, The Bottlers, Refill sherry butt c#3229)
Nose: Wow! Massive sherry and cookies. Raisins and plums. Marzipan and a hint of smoke. Lovely & complex.
A lovely sweetness. More spices emerging after a minute or two. Cinnamon. Clove. Speculaas spices.
Taste: Hey! So much oak and tannins that it almost feels like an Islay malt. Heavy smoke as well.
Score: 92 points - which makes this by far the best Benrinnes I've tried so far. It's extreme though...

Benrinnes 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice)
Nose: Sherry. Some smoke. A little alcoholic. Pleasant composition. Quite light.
Starts strong and becomes even more powerful after a minute. More smoke.
Taste: Sherry and smoke. Woody. Deep flavours, but a bit 'muddy'. Liquorice feeling.
Score: 79 points - another Benrinnes that approaches recommendability. Above average whisky.
Nothing wrong here, but just not remarkable enough for a score in the 80's.

Benrinnes 1985/1999 (43%, Mac Kullick's Choice, Distilled in May 1985, Cask #1213)
Nose: Grainy and 'veggy' over a soft sweet underground. Not much depth at first.
Soft pepper? Maggi? Sweetish with a hint of dust now and then. Fresher with time.
Remains restrained. Much lighter and grainier than any other Benrinnes I tried so far.
Taste: Hot. Gritty with a hint of coffee in the centre. Too thin. Astringent, dry finish.
Score: 73 points - I'd have to classify this as 'below average', but not very much. Based on previous encounters with Benrinnes I was ready to like this a lot, actually. Nevertheless, I'll have to conclude that as a single malt it's slightly disappointing. Other bottlings I tried (especially the 15yo Flora & Fauna) had a much character. Other bottlings have a more pronounced sherry character that set them apart from the crowd. This 'Mac Kullick' is fairly MOTR and hardly the best example of Benrinnes available.

Benrinnes 15yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, 70cl, bottled +/- 1998) - my first ever bottle of Benrinnes.
Nose: Sweet and sherried. Fruity with a hint of smoke. Very appealing from the start.
Maggi? Stock cubes. Plenty of the lovely 'organics' that I love in some sherried malts.
Furniture wax. Old fruits. Grows very rich and complex. Exquisite! Powerful too. Amazing!
Wood (wet, dead oak burning in the autumn). With a drop of water the nose improves even further.
Taste: Sherried with notable leathery notes. Bittersweet. Sherry dryness with smooth episodes.
Very nice. Oaky and smoky. Orange. Long, dry finish with sherry moving back and forth.
Score: 83 points - for a long time my first ever whisky from Benrinnes remained my favourite.

Benrinnes 1978/1995 'Centenary Reserve' (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl).
Nose: Fruity with a whiff of peat. Quite fresh with a soft, beguiling sweetness.
It grows notably oilier after a while. Interesting development but little 'volume'.
Taste: Soft start. A wonderful toffee sweetness emerges quickly - and disappears again.
No sweetness left after 5 minutes. Fresh burn. Bitter in the finish with flashes of liquorice.
Score: 77 points - not quite what I expected w.r.t. style and performance.
Still, I don't think oxidation (this bottle has a screwcap) is to blame here.

Benrinnes 1972/1995 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
Nose: Oh boy!!! Extremely rich and sherried - not your average 'MOTR' CC.
Quickly grassy elements and organics join the party. Spices. Salmiak. Brilliant.
Something veggy. Whiff of smoke. It also sweetens out after a little while.
Taste: It starts very odd as well - but not is such a good way as the nose.
Fortunately, it sweetens out and becomes very big and chewy on the palate.
Nice - but then it dries out again in the finish, leaving a coffee-like bitterness.
Score: 86 points - a great malt, but I don't like the palate enough to go higher.

Benrinnes 21yo 1974/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry butt, C#2579, 695 Bts.)
Nose: Reasonably sherried with some sulphur and a lot of spices. Cinnamon. Furniture polish too...
Taste: Smooth start, blossoming into a solid centre with sherry, fruits, wood and some smoke.
Not really sweet enough for my tastes. Pretty good mouth feel though... Definitely recommendable.
Score: 83 points - although I had it at 82 points for a long time. This one hangs together very well.

Benrinnes 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old Brown Label, no bottling year specified)
Nose: Sweet & floral. Some nutty elements. Organics. Orange. Fat York Ham. Peaty over time.
Taste: Not very well defined. Tea? Short finish. Just a tad too bitter for my tastes.
Score: 79 points - very close to 'recommendable', but not quite...
I guess that makes it an 'average' Benrinnes.
 

And there's more to tell about Benrinnes...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Benrinnes Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Benrinnes page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Benrinnes expressions that have been released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.) 
 

Benrinnes distillery in the new millennium

2007 - Actually, I haven't received confirmation from Diageo about the exact year of the change, so it might have been in the year 2006 or 2008 as well. Anyway, the change I refer to is a new arrangement of the stills. Since 1955, Benrinnes had used its six stills as two sets of three stills - employing a unique form of 'triple distillation', not unlike the method which is still used at the Springbank distillery. Nowadays, the arrangement of the stills resembles that of other Scotch whisky distilleries more closely. These days, two wash stills and four wash stills are used.
 
2009 - For more than a decade Benrinnes was one of the 'stepchildren' of Diageo, but they did receive a little more attention in 2009, when an expression was released in the insanely priced 'Manager's Choice' range. This series seems to be mostly aimed at collectors who were willing to look at this as an investment opportunity. The managers of a number of Diageo's distilleries got together on February 17 to select "the very best casks" from each distillery. I haven't tried them myself, but from people that have, I understand that Diageo's very best wasn't very good...

Benrinnes whisky from 1989 by Signatory Vintage
Benrinnes distillery, Scotland
Benrinnes whisky by Flora and Fauna

Benrinnes was completely rebuilt in 1955/1956 and the traditional floor maltings were replaced by a
so-called 'Saladin Box' in 1964. This is a giant flat box that mechanically turns the germinating barley
inside and allows air to pass through it. The Saladin Box (named after inventor Charles Saladin) was
removed again in 1984 when Benrinnes stopped making its own malted barley. The production capacity
of Benrinnes was expanded significantly in 1966 by increasing the number of stills from three to six.

In 1970 Benrinnes switched from mechanical stoking to internal
heating. In 1974 the production regime was changed again when
the distillery switched to a system of 'partial triple distillation'.
So-called 'feints and low wines' produced in the second distillation
(in the first spirit still) are distilled again in the second spirit still.

And that's not the only unique feature of the distillery; Benrinnes
is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that still uses so-called
'worm tubs' to cool the vapours and condensed spirit from the
running stills. This feauture was once common, but not anymore.

In 2005 only thirteen other distilleries still used this cooling system; Balmenach,
Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Edradour, Glen Elgin, Glenkinchie, Mortlach, Oban,
Old Pulteney, Royal Lochnagar, Speyburn, Springbank (on their wash still only)
and Talisker. The subsequent 'boom' in the whisky industry (due to increased
demand from Asia and Russia in particular) may have had its effects since then.

The Benrinnes distillery (sometimes spelled as 'Ben Rinnes')
was constructed near the site of an earlier distillery which
was built near Whitehouse Farm, Banffshire in 1826. It was
perhaps not the most fortunate choice of locations: the first
Benrinnes distillery was destroyed by a flood in 1829.

Ordinary people might have given up, but not the Scots...
Another distillery was constructed nearby in / around 1835.
The ownership of this new distillery changed several times
before John Dewar & Sons acquired Benrinnes in 1922. In
1925 the John Dewar & Sons company merged with DCL
(Distillery Company Limited, now part of UDV / Diageo).

Benrinnes distillery profileInteractive whisky distillery mapScotland - whisky distillery informationScotch whisky bottlersScotch malt whisky brandsNew distillery projects
Stronachie, a 'bastard' Benrinnes whisky

But now I'm getting ahead of myself - the late 1990's were significant too...
In 1998 UD (United Distillers, part of Guiness Group) and IDV (International Distillers & Vintners,
part of Grand Metropolitan Group) merged into UDV (United Distillers & Vintners). I'm not entirely
sure how the large corporations are legally linked exactly, but UDV is synonymous with Diageo.
When I write this update of the profile (summer 2008), Diageo is by far Scotland's largest whisky
producers with almost thirty active malt whisky distilleries - which is about a third of the total
number of active distilleries in Scotland. But there are far more 'brands' than distilleries...

Take 'Stronachie' for example - a mysterious malt whisky that appeared on the market in 2003.
Although there used to be an actual 'Stronachie' distillery around a century ago, this new bottle
turned out to be a 'bastard malt' that has very little to do with that historical distillery. Although
Stronachie is presented as a composition 'inspired' by the profile of an old bottle of Stronachie
from 1904 found somewhere, organoleptic tests and rumours indicate that these new bottles of
Stronachie contain nothing else than Benrinnes 12yo single malt whisky. It's a decent enough
malt (and quite friendly priced at that), but I personally prefer 'the real thing' at 15yo by F&F.
So, don't believe all the hyped up copywriting by Dewar Rattray you can read on the label...

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