Dram Review: Ben Riach Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Thanks to master of malt for sending me this sample. Ben Riach is the sister distillery of Glendronach and, when you pass it in Speyside, it looks like it should have a visitor centre. For example, there are flags and attractive signs outside that are not normally seen at distilleries that are closed to the public. However, they do not admit visitors (at least not at the time of writing), though I hear this could be changing soon…

This expression is part of master of malt’s “Boutique-y whisky company” range. This means artistic labels, 50cl bottles and, usually, excellent whisky! On the label, you see monkey’s turning the barley. This links to the distillery because Ben Riach malt their own barley. If you are not sure about the monkey’s, read up on “Monkey Shoulder”.

Here are the dramstats:


  • ABV 48.2%
  • Price £49.95 here

Nose: Vanilla, fruit pastils, faint green apple and citrus, creme brulee, faint hint of fudge and cherry yogurt.

Palate: Fudge, toffee, vanilla, hint of salted milk chocolate (yes you can buy that now and it’s awesome!), strawberry (but the kind that you find dried in a cereal bar).

Finish: Vanilla fudge and toffee with drying oak. It becomes calky with furniture polish and a hint of chocolate to cover the fudge.

Verdict: I like it and the price is good to. To be honest though, I’d like to try an unpeated official bottling before deciding whether this was an excellent example of a Ben Riach. I mean they could all be amazing and this could just be par for the course 😉



The 12 drams of xmas: Day 7

Continuing the series of reports on the 12 drams of xmas twitter tasting event:

Quick reminder: 11 online whisky enthusiasts poured half a bottle of whisky into 10 sample bottles and sent them to the other 10 taking part. The bottles were marked only with the number of the day we were due to start. On the given day, we all blind tasted the chosen dram and tried to guess what it was.

Though I did well on some of the drams and embarrassingly badly on some others, I’m posting my tasting notes, my unedited guesses and revealing the answers.

Dram #7 was from Jonathan Webb (@DVDbloke on twitter). Here are my notes:

Nose: Vanilla and lots of spice. Melted neapolitan ice cream, rye?, chocolate raisins and choco coffee beans. It’s got a real bourbon feel to it this.

Palate: Vanilla, bourbony burst and a touch of rye. Chocolate raisins.

Finish: Drying oak and then nesquik milkshake, foam shrimps and foam bananas.

My guess: Wow another day, another tricky one. On the one hand I’m thinking, totally bourbon, and on the other I’m thinking it’s just a well blended cask strength scotch. I’m leaning towards American, but I’ve written a huge “Is this even American?” note in my book. I’m going American, and since my bourbon experience is very limited I’m going with Buffalo Trace.

The answer: BenRiach 16 Year Old Speyside Whisky at 55.2% (Cask Strength and Carry On bottling)

Well, for the second day in a row I missed by an entire continent. *Sigh*. Still, this was a brilliant dram, so all was not lost. I’ll be trying to get the next cask strength and carry on bottling, whatever it is.

Whisky advent day 5: BenRiach Arumaticus

Day 5 and another exciting window of whisky opened. This time it was a dram I’d never heard of from a distillery I have. BenRiach Arumaticus. 12 year old BenRiach finished in dark rum casks.

BenRiach are one of that band of my favourite distilleries. These distilleries are independent and give their whisky the craft presentation treatment (46%, non chill-filtered, no caramel colouring).



So, we’re off to a good start. Here are the dramstats.

  • Age 12 years
  • ABV 46%
  • Dark Rum Finish
  • Price £34

Nose: Fruit pastils, vanilla, touch of peat smoke, coastal but not like the islay coast, the rum gives the coastal notes a tropical touch, like sex on the beach (the cocktail).

Palate:  Drum stik lollies, fruitella chews, vanilla barely that turns to smokey oatcakes. Creamy mouthfeel.

Finish: Vanilla, peat smoke and a fading malt note.

Verdict: Not really sure what the rum adds to the taste, though it is there on the nose. I wouldn’t buy this, but I want to try ordinary 12 year old BenRiach. The delicate and intricate peat waves are subtle and really enjoyable.