Do you remember what it was like when you first got into whisky? For me, I thought, gee, whiskies are awfully expensive and, like olives, are an acquired taste. It seemed such a huge investment on a bottle that I may not have enjoyed. The challenge I had was to find a whisky I rated and one that was within budget. There wasn’t a profusion of options to try before you buy, unfortunately! With whisky, there is always snobbery and I myself fell into that trap early on. I wanted to spend my hard earned cash on a bottle that wasn’t available in supermarkets, but which also didn’t break the bank. I was always under the impression that all good whiskies had to be above the £100 mark… Boy was I wrong.
BenRiach 10 year old is one of those whiskies I tried in the beginning and I remember it was one I could like. Why did I say I could like it? I was still getting into it, whisky was something my partner enjoyed and I wanted to take part too. It reminded me of when I was a child sitting in Pizza Hut enjoying my plain cheese ‘za and a girl on the next table, a little older, was enjoying this tomato. I remember how she took off the skin first before she bit into it. She looked so happy. I wanted one too! I strolled up to the salad bar, grabbed the best looking tomato, sat back down and decided to eat it the same way… It was disgusting. However, I wanted to eat them with gusto like this girl did so from then on, I kept eating them and eating them ‘til something clicked and now I love them… is that mad? Well, Pete reckons there’s something wrong with me. In my head, I turned something I “could” like into something I enjoy immensely and I guess the adult me wanted to like whiskies like the older kids.
The reason for buying this BenRiach in the first place was from reading reviews. The “affordability” and an abundance of good ratings definitely attracted me to this bottle. When it was opened there was something there which I really liked at the time. However, I haven’t had this particular whisky in a good few years and I was interested to find out if I still enjoyed it, now that I guess my palate has evolved. Unfortunately, I didn’t always take detailed notes (sometimes none at all!), so today, I have revisited this dram to see what the fuss was all about.
Bottled at 43% strength, this BenRiach will set you back £36.75 via the Whisky Exchange, or saving a few pennies via Master of Malt for £35.90. If you prefer Amazon for delivery-sake then expect to pay £38.77.
BenRiach 10 year old – review
Colour: perfectly brewed jasmine tea.
On the nose: sweet honey initially with a big hit of green apples and pears. I get subtle earthiness coming through with juicy raisins that turn into stewed apples, almost like an apple strudel with the buttery pastry. Over time, a lovely malty creaminess begins to invade, it reminds me of the frothy top of a warming porridge. I could not escape from the smell of soy wax and dried bean-curd with vanilla pods almost like a creamy rice pudding. Rhubarb and cream sweeties show its presence with hints of freeze-dried strawberries almost like a box of Kellogg’s Special K. Hazelnuts and the beginnings of cloves also begin to appear with a wafting of cedarwood.
In the mouth: sweet, but not too much . It is oaky and tannic. Bitterness is very present with a chilli hot spice and white pepper. Black pepper and brine are there but very subtly. Strong menthol that begins to dry out the mouth and numbs the sides of the tongue with a clove-like feeling. The mouthfeel is quite oily and waxy but relatively thin. Cream comes out initially but the dryness wipes it almost instantly from the palate. The finish is short where the flavour almost instantly disappears leaving the tongue numb and giving the throat a nice pleasant warmth. Bitterness is ever present.
I enjoyed revisiting this whisky and I know why I liked it so much back then with my less experienced palate. It was and is very drinkable; not too sweet or vanilla heavy and it doesn’t have too much of that earthy mushroomy hit that I often get with sherried whiskies. This is a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry (although I don’t know the proportions) and as neither exerts excessive influence, the result is an inoffensive and nice whisky.
It is not a complex dram and, yes, the flavour does not last particularly long, but it is one that I reckon would be a good starting whisky. Maybe the first in a line up at a tasting? It definitely benefits from leaving it to sit and oxidise for a while. As it mellows the flavour is the same, but the delivery is more gradual and that menthol hit does not catch you out straight away. The nose on the BenRiach is nice and I could smell it all day, however the taste does not live up to it which is slightly disappointing. I believe if I had started writing reviews at the beginning of my whisky journey this would probably have gotten a 7/10 but that is not the case now that I have gone back to it. I guess to me, it seems slightly boring compared to what I enjoy nowadays: the nose definitely hits the spot but the flavour profile just isn’t there to make it super exciting. Having said that, I still enjoy it and to be honest I prefer it to a lot of whiskies I have tried lately.
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