It’s peat that takes center stage in this Speyside single malt. With secondary notes of fruit and oaky tannins, this smoky maverick won Silver medal at the 2017 International Wine & Spirit Competition.
Amidst the lush greenery, in the heart of Speyside, sits the pagoda’d roof of the BenRiach distillery. A facility that has been producing single malt Scotch since 1898. The area of Moray is known for its funnel shape, with the tip pointed to the source of the Spey River. Benriach sits at the very center of this funnel, just outside the town of Elgin. The story of BenRiach is one of resilience. In 1897, John Duff built the BenRiach distillery, after his early success with his Glenlossie and Longmorn distilleries. He even built a railroad in 1990, for the purpose of moving supplies back and forth between the two shops.
The timing of his ambitious pursuits, however, proved problematic. Following the Pattison crash of 1899 and the downturn of the domestic market, BenRiach, along with many other distilleries were fated to close. The distillery had barely been operational for 2 years, before being made almost irrelevant for 65 years. During these 65 years, the plant remained operational solely as a malting facility for Longmorn. The two sister distilleries were essentially consolidated into a single working unit, BenRiach produced the grain, and Longmorn distilled it.
But the 1960s were good to BenRiach as well as the entire industry, and the facility remained operational from 1965 onwards. In 2004 the distillery was bought out by a private entity who released a true BenRiach single malt Whisky. The distillery eventually fell under the ownership of The BenRiach Distilling Co. which also took (befittingly) the Glendronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries under its umbrella.
Under the guidance of former blender, Billy Walker, in 2013 the floor maltings reopened, and distillery production poured forth full throttle. The distillery was then acquired by Brown-Forman, in 2016. They now produce up to 2.8 million liters per year. Fruit defines the heart of Benriach's character, specifically, distinct notes of pears and peaches.
BenRiach Curiositas is crafted using a heavily peated malted barley. This hearty dose of smoke is quite a rarity in the modern day Speyside heartlands, whose single malts are characterized by their unpeated, fruit-laden flavor profiles. But this was not always the case, as the original Speyside character and flavor of malts typical of the nineteenth century, tended to lean towards the peaty side, as did all Scotch Whiskies of the times. Peat reek is this Curositas’ main act, prominently featured in the fore whilst, the fruited notes fill the background, and oaky notes linger on the finish.
It is said that 10 is the magic number when it comes to aging peated single malts. After 10 years of maturation, the Whisky achieves an optimum balance of peat-bittersweet and oak infusion. Curiositas is a distinctive dram, in so many ways. Full of character and depth, this single malt has quite a mature demeanor for a Whisky of its age. The expression also took Silver at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2017.
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92 (46% ABV)
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An explosion of aromatic peat reek, with fragrant hints of honey, fruit and mellow oak on the nose. The palate is an avalanche of peat, followed by an extravagant and complex mix of fruit, heather, nuts, oak wood and spices.