Founded in 1898 by John Duff, Benriach distillery is located in the whiskey center of Scotland, Speyside region. We can say that Benriach is one of the best representatives of the Speyside, which is generally known for its fruity and rich characters. We can even say that Benriach takes this a little further and offers whisky lovers all the colors of Speyside…
In this article, I will share with you the history of this colorful brand, its production details and the features that make the brand interesting.
A Brief Look at Benriach's History
As I mentioned at the beginning of my article, Benriach distillery was founded in 1898 by John Duff, a whiskey entrepreneur. Unfortunately just 2 years after its establishment, Benriach distillery closed due to Pattison Crash* .
*Pattison Crash: It is a sectoral crisis that dramatically affected the Scottish whisky industry. Robert and Walter Pattison did not cause all the crisis, yet uncontrollable growth with heavy credits in the 1880s, unnecessary expenditures and illegal activities not just destroyed the industry, also dragged other companies they partnered with to the bottom.
The distillery, which closed in 1900, pauses production until 1965. The malting section of the distillery, which has not produced whiskey for 65 years, remains open and provides malting services to neighboring distilleries. The income generated from this keeps the distillery afloat for years without production. With the investments and renovation works, the distillery restarted production in 1965.
One of the most important dates in the history of the brand is 1994. Benriach, which has been producing whiskey only for use in blended whiskeys until this date, launches its first bottling in 1994. This bottling is available as a 10-year Single Malt. on sale today Benriach 10Let's also point out that it was inspired by this first bottling.
Benriach, which has changed hands many times since its establishment, was most recently acquired by American liquor giant Brown Forman for £285 million in 2016. With this agreement, Brown Forman acquires the Glendronach and Glenglassaugh brands in addition to Benriach.
With this acquisition, Benriach is making serious strides. The first of these was Dr. It happens that Rachel Barrie takes over as chief collator. I will talk about it in a little more detail in the next chapters.
Another important development is happening in 2020. Benriach introduces a brand new malt series, each of which is produced with a different production and aging technique. The bottle designs of the series are inspired by the first Single Malts released in 1994.
Whiskey Production in Benriach
There are many details we can talk about about Benriach's manufacturing process. Without going into too much detail, I would like to share with you a few points that distinguish Benriach from other distilleries and make it special.
First of all, let me state that the distillery has an annual production capacity of approximately 3 million liters. We can say that this figure is slightly above the average when we compare it with other distilleries in the region where the distillery is located. The distillery increased the number of stills from 2 to 4 in 1985. Today, production continues with 4 retorts.
One of the most important features of the Benriach distillery is that the whiskeys they produce have a very rich taste variety. We see the reasons for this when we take a closer look at the production details.
Peat Usage: I mentioned at the beginning of my article that Benriach expressions, in general, reflect the Speyside character with their fruity and soft characters. But the distillery Benriach The Smoky Ten We see that there are also sooty and peat effective expressions. This is because Benriach uses peat malted barley in addition to regular malted barley. Peat use is only a certain period of the year and this period is called “Smoke Season”. Let me state that it is not very common for both peat and non-peat whiskeys to come out of a distillery.
2 and 3 times Distillation: In Benriach distillery, whiskey is produced by distilling twice, as in many other Scottish distilleries. But just like in the use of peat, Benriach distills 3 times in certain periods of the year. Whiskeys produced by distillation three times have a softer character and these whiskeys are the same as Dr. It is carefully analyzed by Rachel Barrie and used in Benriach malts. Let me share as a small technical detail that Benriach also increased the reflux by slow distillation and aimed to obtain a light character.
Ripening: Benriach's “Eclectic cask maturation” He has a special keg operation he named. We can briefly summarize this operation as finding the best barrels with different characteristics from all over the world and using them for maturation.
The distillery supplies casks of Bourbon and new oak from the USA, Sherry from Spain, Port from Portugal, red wine from France, Marsala from Italy and Rum from Jamaica. According to the character of the whiskey to be revealed, barrels are selected from this wide selection of barrels and used for maturation.
When we look at Benriach's expressions, we see that he uses 3 or 4 different barrels. For example, Bourbon, Port and Sherry barrels are preferred in the maturation of Benriach The Twelve, one of my favorite whiskeys of the distillery, while Bourbon, Virgin oak (new oak) and Jamaican Rum barrels are preferred in Benriach The Smoky Ten.
Other technical details: I said I don't want to go into too much detail, but I'm sure there are whiskey nerds like me among you… I will add 2 more details for you: floor malting and sweet mash.
- Floor malting: Benriach is one of 2 distilleries in the Speyside area that do their own malting. The distillery, which outsources most of its barley, malt its barley for one month of the year, keeping the old Scottish production techniques alive and honoring this culture.
- Sweet Mash: In the mashing phase, Benriach aims to reach the maximum sweetness rate in the mash, and then to obtain a more intense fruity character in the fermentation, by bringing the ground barley together with hot water 4 times, not 3 times, unlike the general practice.
Speyside's Most “Layered” Whiskeys
All these differences in production details allow the production of malts with very different characteristics under the same roof. With the marrying of these malts, highly layered and rich expressions emerge.
For example, Benriach is able to create expressions such as Benriach The Smoky Ten, which blends peat-infused mats with peat-free malts, with a soft flavor and fruity base notes, despite its sooty character.
Of course, managing this blending process and producing balanced whiskeys with different flavors is not an easy task. At this point, one of Scotland's most important chief blenders, Dr. Rachel Barrie steps in.
Dr. Rachel Barrie (First Lady of Scotch Whiskey)
With nearly 30 years of experience, Dr. Rachel Barrie is considered one of the most important figures in the whiskey world. Joining the Brown Forman family in 2017, Barrie is currently the chief blender for the Benriach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh brands. Let me also mention that Rachel Barrie, who has awards such as Keeper of the Quaich and The Whiskey Magazine's Hall of Fame, has the title of “First Lady of Scotch Whiskey”.
As a chief harvester, Dr. If you're wondering what Rachel Barrie is doing “The Art of Blending” I suggest you take a look at my post. Let me briefly summarize for those who are too lazy to click on the link: Barrie is responsible for the quality of each whiskey that comes out of the distillery. Barrie is the name that brings out Benriach's richly layered whiskeys by tasting different barrels from all over the world that I mentioned in the previous parts of my article.
In an interview, Barrie said that he has tasted 150,000 different casks throughout his career. That's 5,000 barrels per year, 416 each month, 14 each day… An incredible number!
Dr. I had the opportunity to chat online with Rachel Barrie, who, despite her great knowledge, is very humble and very pleasant to talk to. I tasted it as a favorite of Benriach The Twelve and it's baklava! He said it was a great match. I tried it, it turns out really great!
The Core Range, which Benriach introduced in 2020, has 7 different expressions. These;
- Benriach The Original Ten
- Benriach The Smoky Ten
- Benriach The Twelve
- Benriach The Smoky Twelve
- Benriach The Twenty One
- Benriach The Twenty Five
- Benriach The Thirty
In addition to the Core Range, there is the Special Edition, in which the brand draws attention to different production details, Travel Retail offered exclusively for Duty Free, and Archive series consisting of rare whiskeys. Benriach to my tasting notes here. you can take a look…
Benriach through the years
1898: The Benriach distillery is founded by whiskey entrepreneur John Duff.
1900: Only 2 years after its establishment, the distillery is closed due to economic reasons.
1900-1965: The distillery, which closed in 1900, pauses production until 1965. The malting section of the distillery, which has not produced whiskey for 65 years, remains open and provides malting services to neighboring distilleries. The income generated from this keeps the distillery afloat for years without production.
1965: The distillery starts production again.
1972: The distillery began trials of peat whiskey in the 1970s. Highland peat is used in these trials. Today, Benriach produces a limited number of peat whiskeys during what it calls the "Smoke Season".
1985: The number of stills in the distillery is increased from 2 to 4.
1994: Benriach distillery launches its first Single Malt bottling. Benriach, which has produced whiskey only for use in blended whiskeys until this date, is offered for sale as a 10-year-old Single Malt.
1998: The distillery started three distillation trials in the 1990s. We can say that the desired is achieved with the soft-tasting, fruity character that emerged as a result of the trials. Three times distillation is a distillation technique that the brand still uses in certain periods.
2015: Benriach is named producer of the year at the Icons of Whiskey Awards.
2016: Acquired by American liquor giant Brown Forman for £285M. With this agreement, Brown Forman acquires the Glendronach and Glenglassaugh brands in addition to Benriach.
2017: Dr. Rachel begins her career as Barrie's chief collator.
2020: Benriach introduces a brand new malt series to the market, each bottle of which is produced with a different production and aging technique. The bottle designs of the series are inspired by the first Single Malts released in 1994.
2021: Benriach distillery's visitor center opens.
It seems that we, as whiskey lovers, will hear the name of Benriach, which has almost risen with the moves made after it was acquired by Brown Forman. The thing that most appeals to me about this distillery is their commitment to traditional methods as well as their experimental approach to production processes. I can't wait to visit the distilleries as soon as possible and share my notes from there.
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My notes from my tour to the Speyside region of Scotland…