Rachel Barrie, master blender at Benraich Distillery in Speyside in northeast Scotland, has released her special edition “Smoke Season.”
The distillery, near Longmorn and Elgin, was opened by John Duff in 1898. Says Barrie: “We never stop exploring how the fruit and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in a range of eclectic oak casks, either amplifying or transforming the perception of peat.”
“Season is the result of exploring 100% intensely peated malt, batch distilled and matured in 1st fill bourbon barrels combined with a high proportion of charred and toasted American Virgin oak casks. The spirit is reminiscent of barbecue smoked fruit in a pine forest.”
Barrie previously worked for Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, and Bowmore. “I wanted to create whiskies that were exciting, interesting, would dance on your tongue, give you a journey of flavor, a world of flavor, surprise, and delight. “In Speyside, which is the heart of the Caledonian forest, pine woodlands, and heather, all this vegetation over time has formed the peat. Because it’s from trees, it’s a lot sweeter. It’s exploring flavor. It’s bespoke.”
American virgin oak and bourbon barrel maturation develops sweet caramel smoke and cinnamon-spiced roasted apple, with hints of charred orange peel and hickory, concentrated at the bottling strength of 52.8% ABV. Continues Barrie: “Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery calendar, and this new addition gives both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet, and smoky character; of Benriach single malt.”
The distillery sourced Highland peat from the mainland that’s derived from ancient trees and heather. This character produces a distinct aromatic smoke that toasts the barley at Benriach, resulting in an intense thread of sweet smoke interwoven with Benriach’s staple orchard fruit character.
The Smoke Season is the latest edition to a new core range of single malt Scotch whiskies. The distillery’s new portfolio comprises 10-year-old expressions Original Ten (43% ABV) and Smoky Ten (46% ABV), and 12-year-old bottlings The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve, which are both bottled at 46% ABV.
“The new range perfectly marries tradition and innovation that is central to Benriach’s story. Inspired by the 1994 bottling of the Original Ten, with its fruit-laden complexity and smooth, rounded taste, the new range re-imagines the 1898 origins of Benriach, brought to life in the 21st century through fusing distilling styles with extraordinary casks,” explained Barrie.
“In the new Original Ten, a more richly flavored, rounded malt character might be discerned, whilst The Twelve balances richly sherried malt with added layers of fruit complexity, reaching a pinnacle at twelve years old. The new Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve explore the sweet smokiness of Benriach, enriched through innovative combinations of rum, virgin oak, and marsala casks interwoven with more traditional bourbon and sherry.
As one of just two distilleries in Speyside still practices traditional floor malting on-site, a new small-batch and limited edition ‘Malting Season’ will be available. Benriach will also continue its Cask Edition Programme. Benriach means “the hill of the red deer” in Gaelic.
Since 2016, BenRiach, GlenDronach (1826), and Glenglassaugh (1875) distilleries have been owned by Kentucky’s Brown-Forman Corporation, which owns Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Woodford Reserve Bourbon brands.
“BenRiach is not a conventional Speyside distillery; We have lots of experimentation and diversity within the distillery. We can play tunes with BenRiach, as we have old 1990s stock of triple-distilled and peated going back to the 1970s.”
Barrie hopes to restore the reputation of GlenDronach as one of Scotland’s leading sherry cask-matured single malts with the US arrival of its first four cask bottling releases.
“This long-standing, much-loved release is a focal point to each year, demonstrating the exquisite character of our whiskies through these exceptional casks which I have carefully hand-selected. Each cask individually explores the sophistication, powerful intricacy, and rich layers of Spanish sherry cask maturation found in every expression of The GlenDronach.
“From the rare vintage casks of 1990 with exquisite layers of dark chocolate and the elegant Victoria plum, date and bramble preserve notes in the 1992 Port Pipe, to the distinctive fruitcake and toasted raisin notes in the 2009 Pedro Ximénez Puncheon, each cask encapsulates The GlenDronach house style; robust, elegant and full-bodied. All eighteen casks are bottled without chill-filtration for richness, at high strength, and are naturally deep in color.”
Barrie also has high hopes of introducing Glenglassaugh to a wider audience.
Revival is the first expression released from the Glenglassaugh distillery after being mothballed for more than 20 years. The Glenglassaugh Revival has been matured in a balanced mix of ex-red wine and fresh bourbon casks, vatted and re-racked for double maturation in rich sherry casks. Bottle
“Glenglassaugh is rich, with tropical and stewed fruits, and shaped by the sea. The water we use at Glenglassaugh has the highest mineral content at any distillery in Scotland. This affects the fermentation because the yeast produces more esters, more pear-drop characteristics, leading to sweet confectionery flavors. The new-make spirit is the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.”