I’ve tried a few BenRiach whiskies over the years, and most of them were heavy on the peat. There are times when I like peat, but I often find it overwhelming, so I haven’t really gotten into the brand all that much. Recently, though, I decided I would try the BenRiach 15-Year-Old. I’d read that it’s a lot different from other whiskies in BenRiach’s catalog, and having tried it, I must concur.
The BenRiach 15-Year-Old was made using a two-step maturation process. First the whisky was matured in American oak bourbon barrels. Then it was transferred to casks from the bodegas of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia. These casks previously were used to mature Pedro Ximenez sherry. Having had good experiences before with whiskies aged in sherry casks, I figured this one might be worth a try.
In the bottle, the BenRiach 15-Year-Old is a deep amber colour. Aromatic notes include caramel, vanilla, pineapple, and nutmeg. But all of these notes are melded into something dusty. The best way I can describe it would be to say that it smells like the bottle was left open in an attic for a decade.
Flavours are quite surprising given these aromas. I was expecting this to be overwhelmingly sweet because of the caramel smell and the sherry, but both of those flavours are quite well blended into the whole. Other notes include orange, cherries, pepper, nutmeg, wood and—yes—peat. Thankfully however the peat is very light and stays in the background where it doesn’t take over the entire flavour profile. There is plenty of spice. The finish is long and dry with the fruit flavours lingering.
I can definitely tell that this is a BenRiach whisky, but it is far more balanced to me than most of their whiskies. I enjoy peat, but I like it in short, controlled bursts. I don’t like when it takes over a drink completely. Here the peat is just one element weaving into the whole. I was also pleased that this wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet (nor does it taste like dust). All in all, it exceeded my expectations. You can purchase the BenRiach 15-Year-Old for around $50-$60, which isn’t cheap, but it’s worth your money.
BenRiach 15 Year Old: Review Summary
Nose: Caramel, vanilla, pineapple, nutmeg, dust.
Palate: Caramel, sherry, wood, orange, cherries, pepper, nutmeg, peat.