Arran “Batch 3” (51.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 728 bottles, 50 cl)

As a volume, 50 cl should be just enough, or some would say, barely enough. I do the occasional bottleshare with friends, and half of a full bottle (35 cl), well that’s actually not enough for me, I believe that 50 cl is the bare minimum of acceptability. Earlier, way back in 2015, I actually reviewed Batch 4 of Arran from the same bottler. I have to admit, I totally forgot about that one. When backtracking a bit on my own website, I just found my review of Batch 4, which gave me quite the scare, since in this case the review for Batch 3 came first, an this introduction was the last bit to write. Both Batch 3 and Batch 4 have the same label, and for a moment there I though I’d written a review of the same Whisky again. Fortunately I didn’t, even though it would have been quite interesting to compare both reviews. That would have been a happy accident. Just to be clear, I would have posted this review anyway. Since I don’t remember Batch 4 any more, I can’t compare both to each other, which is quite unusual for me, since I usually do remember almost all Whiskies I’ve tried.

Color: White Wine, quite pale.

Nose: This has it all, tropical fruits, barley, bread, barley sugar, milk chocolate, hint of vanilla and very soft wood. Leafy. Lively. Fresh and also sweet smelling. Toffee and wine gums, and sometimes a bit like a Rum, but also a nice fresh golden Beer and Gin. What a remarkable combination of smells. Also a tiny flinty and smoky note, coming from, I guess, the toasted oak. It’s not very woody though, although over time, some more soft (virgin) oak moves in. Besides the big fruitiness, it is also somewhat perfumy and somewhat sweaty. Not soapy, mind you, it just smells so friendly and nice. Hints of fresh air, cow pasture and paper, only adding to the complexity. It may hardly have a colour, and yet it is a NAS bottling, but in no way does it smell like a young or under-matured Whisky. Amazing how much is going on in this one. No off-notes whatsoever. Wonderful smelling Malt.

Taste: Sweeter than expected and fruity. Vanilla, toffee and mango ice cream. Much simpler than the nose was. Fresh and lemony. Cold dishwater with lemon detergent and almonds. Wood shavings and sawdust. Fresh oak playing a larger role here than it did on the nose. I can feel the bitterness on the back of my tongue already. Very tasty and well balanced yet less complex. In a way this is a winter warmer. Despite all the fruit it isn’t a sunny Malt. Nice warmth when descending down the pipe. After the fruit moves away, the aftertaste also has this slight bitter lingering note, and present as well (finally it’s there, I’ve been expecting it for quite some time now) a slight soapy feel. The finish itself is medium at best, it doesn’t have a great length, and even the aftertaste leaves quite quickly, hinting at some youth. Still, what this Malt is able to offer, despite its supposed youth, it is amazing. If only the taste was as good as the nose was, than you’d be amazed what I would have scored this.

I didn’t buy Arran for a very long time, after a plethora of very young and initial releases, some of which already were very good. (Remember the Champagne finishes?) Not by choice or prejudice though, it just fell under the radar somehow. I bought this Arran at auction by chance. I wanted to buy a Boutique-y bottle, placed several lowish bids on some of them, and this was the only only one nobody seemed to care for and I was never overbid. So after a while is was Arran time on my lectern, and I opened this one, and it is great. Unexpected. NAS, very pale, so I didn’t expect all that much to be honest, yet this is a very good Arran. So after having tried this one, I immediately scored me some more Arran’s at auction. After this Arran, I’m not so sure 50 cl is acceptable to me any more. I fear this will be gone too soon.

Points: 87

The Benriach 29yo 1976/2006 (56%, OB, Batch 3, Hogshead #8084, 194 bottles)

And yes another Benriach and another one from Batch 3. After the 1968 Hoggie that scored 89 points and the 1984 peated Butt that scored 88 Points, let’s see if this 1976 peated Hoggie can finally break the barrier and score (well) into the 90’s.

Color: Full Gold

Nose: Fruity and half waxy (it’s not Caperdonich 1972). The fruits would be Apricots, some peach again and strawberry jam. Creamy and spicy oak, malt and sawdust. A rather calm powdery nose. You know those hard candies made of compressed powder? Cold wet tea leaves. Distant sweets and very fruity. Again the yellow fruits. Apricots and peach minus the perfumy side of peach. There could be peat in this, but left in very minute amounts. After some time, smoke and banana. Peat?

Taste: Thick, spicy and waxy. Distant smoke and hints of black fruits. Sweet, nice balance. Work for it and you’ll be rewarded. Again a great sweet fruity malt. Peat maybe, but not as we know it. It’s not from Islay and this is not heavily peated. Just the right amount of wood (the 1968 had more wood).

Of the three I tried from this third batch, I like this best. Some would say the 1968, but for me this has more of everything. Rounder and better balance. OK, maybe simpler, but much bolder. This time the seventies over the sixties. It all just fits snugly, and the peat is so great in this!

Points: 91

The Benriach 21yo 1984/2006 (55%, OB, Batch 3, Oloroso Butt #1438, 658 bottles)

Earlier I tried a 1968 Hogshead from the next door neighbour of Longmorn. Here is another Benriach from Batch 3. The hoggie scored 89 points, so let’s see if this peated and sherried Benriach can match that score. This one being a lot younger and probably completely different. That’s a plus for Benriach anyway. They always tried out a lot, so there is a lot of variation going on…

Color: Orange Gold.

Nose: Smoke and licorice. Nice wood in the fireplace. Clean sea air and peat. Also a slight hint of soap. Black and white powder. Musty Sherry and salty tar. Deep down syrupy apricots and even deeper down a floral note. Given some time, the very dominant heavy wood fire notes luckily die down a little to show more of what’s underneath.

Taste: Sweet and prickly cannabis. Don’t do drugs, do a Benriach! Peat and spicy wood. Musty moss. Red fruits, fresh and candied. Toffee and nougat. Very big body that’s chewy with a little bit of hidden (soapy) banana in here. Finishes a bit like a Kriek Lambic, slightly bitter.

Quite nice big bodied malt. The peat and smoke are great here and there is just enough sweetness here to balance that out. If the fruityness would be able to show its face some more this would have been excellent. Still very good nonetheless. And yes, another great Benriach in batch 3.

Points: 88

The Benriach 37yo 1968/2006 (52%, OB, Batch 3, Hogshead #2712, 157 bottles)

Benriach, also known as The BenRiach. Founded in 1897, sold to Longmorn Distilleries Co. two years later and mothballed from 1903 to 1965. Wow, that’s a long time! Interesting about Benriach is that a lot of experiments were done there during the seventies (and eighties). Tests with peat, new oak etc. Lot’s of those experiments are released today.

Benriach issue several different vintages in batches. The first batch was released in 2004, the year Billy Walker bought the distillery along with Intra Trading. (These guys also bought Glendronach in 2008). Not a lot of experimenting with the bottle to be reviewed now. A bottle from the third batch released in 2006. Just a nice little hogshead filled in 1968 yielding only 157 bottles, quite the angels share, but still 52% ABV.

Color: Full gold, almost orange.

Nose: Waxy, elegant and promising body. Fruity, apple sauce, peaches and dried apricots. Dare I say waxy? Some dry powder and paper. Hint of banana. Creamy light vanilla. Crème brûlée and custard. Also some almonds and a slight hint of licorice are thrown in for good measure. Very balanced. Also it has a promising sweetness you would expect from a Bourbon. Very likeable nose, can’t go wrong with this. If you like fruity, you’ll love this!

Taste: Very elegant wood and a great creamy sweetness. Chewy mild banana and peach yoghurt and a hint of red or black fruit (candylike). A pinch of smoke in the back, and obviously some wood, but that’s ok, it hardly gives off some bitterness. A bit short and light finish with a slight inbalance.

Enjoyable, recommendable and very fruity. It could have gained triple A status if it would have some added bits that would counterpart the fruit. It is good/great, but lacks some complexity you would have expected of such an old malt.

Points: 89