If you follow my reviews, you have noticed that I tend to give just a little history to put some context around the distillery. I am not a huge history buff, but I do find some of the stories interesting. The BenRiach story is one of the more interesting ones.
The BenRiach distillery was built way back in 1898 by John Duff. Due to hardship in the whisky industry, the stills were shut down in 1900 and remained that way for 65 years. Interestingly, BenRiach's sister distillery, Longmorn, continued to source some of the malted barley from the BenRiach floor maltings. In 1965, many new distilleries were being built and old ones reopened, and BenRiach was one of them, being reopened by Glenlivet Distillers Ltd.
In 1994, The BenRiach is released as a single malt brand for the first time as part of the Seagrams "Heritage Collection". Yes, at some point, Seagrams had acquired Glenlivet, but this was really the beginning of an era of change for BenRiach. Just a few years later, in 2001, Pernod Ricard acquired Seagrams and only a year later, BenRiach is mothballed again.
Then in April of 2004, The BenRiach Distillery was acquired by an independent consortium and production restarted almost immediately. In August of the same year, we get the first bottling under the new owners, which resembles the core offerings that we see today, as well as the 10 year Curiositas being reviewed here.
Soon after, the awards for BenRiach started to roll in. In 2009, they won the "Whisky Distiller of the Year" at the Icons of Whisky awards in London. Just a few years later, The BenRiach Distillery was named Global Whisky Distiller of the Year at the 2015 Icons of Whisky Awards. Given the amount of success, it should come as no surprise that BenRiach was acquired in June of 2016 by Brown-Forman, giving them the impressive trio of GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh.
Obviously, the story doesn't end there as we are here in 2020 finally reviewing the 10 yr Curiositas. The big question is, does BenRiach Curiositas warrant reading all of that history? In short, yes it does.
Age: 10 years.
Bottled at 92 proof
Delicate peat and honey greet you immediately. Ripe peaches sit in the background along with a touch of oak. After some time in the glass, vanilla custard makes an appearance.
Light and oily, peat leads the way, but quickly gives ground to the honey and peaches. The vanilla appears as well, and the dram takes on an almost creamy feel.
The peat lingers for a bit and gets a little warm, which just feels right. Vanilla and cherries try to vie for attention and fairly quickly disappear behind the peat and light oak.
Let me start by saying that I love peated scotch, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin in particular. That being said, this is a very nice peated scotch that doesn't punch you in the face. While it is peated, there isn't a ton of smoke, salt or brine. This is a peated Speyside and you can tell the difference. Yes, the peat gives it an earthy quality, but it blends nicely with the fruits and vanilla. The mouthfeel is also quite wonderful, it starts out light, but it transforms into a delightfully creamy feel which makes you slow down and really taste it. It is a great introduction to peated scotch without needing to go full Laphroaig. The biggest problem will be availability as it is not distributed nearly as wide as other brands. I am hopeful that the distribution increases as this would be a lovely addition to any bar.
*This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by The BenRiach. This in no way influenced the final outcome of this review.