Increasingly these days I seem to be more concerned with finding good-value whisky, because it’s becoming rarer and rarer. One of my natural hunting ground tends to be the domain of the independent bottlers. And among them, the Laing brothers with their two different companies are certainly up there in my top go-to places for good-value whiskies. This time it’s the Hunter Laing and Company Old Malt Cask range that once again proves to have been a good purchase.
I bought a bottle of the Benrinnes 1999 Aged 15 Years at this Spring’s Midlands Whisky Festival, when I’d been sampling a fair few whiskies on the day. Much like the Wemyss Aberfeldy, I was seeking something of a particular flavour profile to fit a gap in my whisky cupboard.
The Old Malt Cask range is a very well established brand, having been going for over 15 years now. Each whisky is selected by a tasting panel and bottled at 50% ABV, which is a very pleasing bottling strength. (I also think 46% is a very good strength too.) The labels have recently had a bit of a redesign, with regional colour on the label. Which I think is – and perhaps reassuringly so – one of the few marketing tweaks to the range. In fact, when I spoke to the chap on the Old Malt Cask stand at the Midlands Whisky Festival, I asked if they were doing any dazzling new ranges or releases and he said: nope, they’re just going to keep doing what they do, and release good whiskies at a reasonable price with minimal fuss.
I have a lot of time for that attitude. No matter how much PR goes on in the whisky world, if you have a good product and just put it in front of honest people, it’ll earn a good reputation. The community talks to each other, offline as much as online, and good whisky will get snapped up.
A very quick word on Benrinnes: located in the Speyside region, it’s owned by Diageo, and most of its whisky ends up in Johnnie Walker and J&B blends. The only official bottling there’s been from it was in 1991, which means that you’ll only get its whisky from independent bottlers. Curiously, it used to use triple distillation, a method more commonly associated with Irish whiskey or old-school lowland single malts, but it abandoned this method a few years ago.
Onto the Benrinnes 1999 Aged 15 Years itself…
On the nose: wonderfully fruity notes of tangerines and oranges. Perfumed, with a touch of cedar wood. Plenty of rich honey here, though I’d say more the lighter sort rather than heather honey. Vanilla. Custard cream biscuits. Marzipan.
In the mouth: this is utterly wonderful. Gorgeous treacle sponge flavours. Strawberry jam. Creme brûlée, perhaps, but it’s rather nice and syrupy for the most part. Toffee. Maybe Rhubarb? Certainly baked with a little brown sugar sprinkled on. Christmas hams. Then come the autumnal spices, ginger, all-spice and nutmeg, make it very pleasant and warming in the mouth. In fact it’s very warming and lingering. Romantic, autumnal and sensual.
The Benrinnes 1999 Aged 15 Years is not massively complex; it’s simply just a tasty whisky – and at £65 (I paid £60 on the day of the festival I think), it’s a brilliant bargain too. If you like, say Glenfarclas, and appreciate its good value, then this will be right up your street.
It’s even worth just browsing the range to see what takes your fancy, as you’ll find good value at most price points.