This is review #4 from my BenRiach distillery collection taster pack (HoS, 12, 16, 20). This is where age makes a difference.
Nose: The nose is fat and buttery. Buttered bread with some vanilla and other sweets. Peaches and a bit lighter on the apple. Malty, and oddly, a little celery in the background. A tad bit of furniture polish, but in an “Oh, that’s cool!” way. A surprisingly powerful nose for 43%, and damn if it isn’t very pleasant.
Palate: Medium oily, savoury and buttery. More of that olive oil on french or italian bread. The second wave is malty with graham crackers, then it comes in slightly fruity with peaches, apple, brown sugar and cinnamon. Much less jagged than the 16 by a long shot.
Finish: Long, mostly sugar and vanilla sweetness. Terribly pleasant.
This dram makes the tasting pack worth it. The HoS was a pleasant surprise for something so inexpensive, while the middle of the range (12, 16) were rather muted or lifeless. The 20 is something BenRiach can be proud of, though they get more whisky out there faster if they could do more at the younger years. I’d love to try this at 46%, too.
While the HoS, 12, and 16 are very similar, and not all that inspiring, the 20yo takes BenRiach to a whole new level. Perhaps they need some work with their maturation process, because they could really do better work at the younger ages, and go for pure quality instead of this high quality-to-price ratio. An $80 bottle of 20yo whisky is a steal, yes, but I’d pay $80 for a really good 16yo bottle, too.