Benrinnes 15yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, L15P00535367, Circa 2001)

Long time no see! I took a month off, since a lot happened lately. First of all, a new job, which is nice, takes up a lot of time though, and the moments I did have left for writing reviews, were also spent differently than I initially expected. Apart from that, also The Whisky Show in London happened. Today, instead of reviewing something new from that show, I chose an oldie from my lectern.

Just like the Flora & Fauna Mortlach bottling I reviewed earlier, this is a bottle I brought with me to a gathering of my Whisky club, and as can happen when opening old bottles, the cork broke quite easily, crumbled to a pulp. You gotta love those corks now don’t you? Of all the Flora & Fauna bottlings, Mortlach, Dailuaine and this Benrinnes are the really Sherried ones (but there are more). Experience also shows us there is definitely some batch variation going on in the Flora & Fauna series. Here we have an oldie, supposedly bottled in 2001 (or 2002), so not a recent one, which might be entirely different.

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Heavy on the Sherry. Nice and earthy. Meaty, cold gravy. Thick aroma. Coal and steam. Is it already a sherried bottling from a different time than ours? How would a more recent example compare? This was distilled in the eighties, which was a different era compared to a Gordon & MacPhail Longmorn from 1971. So heavy on the Sherry. Thick and astringent. Dry and not as fruity as Longmorn. If you ask me, this compares more to the style of Glenfarclas, drier and not-so-fruity. Funky, tarry, musk, brown sugar, coffee creamer and definitely Vanilla. American oak. Still not a lot of fruit though. Hints of very ripe cherries mixed in with oak. Dry, dusty and quite spicy. Hints of cask toast including the smell of molten plastic. Meaty, cooked vegetables with more oak and spices. Hard to tell which spices though, although anise and cloves come to mind, as well as some crushed beetle (that’s not a spice isn’t it?). I can’t help but feel there are some older casks used for this particular expression. Good and interesting, but also a bit “strange”. A hint of soap (not of the perfumy kind) and mocha.

Taste: On entry, a brief light moment, almost like a underproof Whisky (which it is not). Soft, but luckily not “smooth”. It has wonderful raw edges and does show some bitter (and soapy) notes as well, which do work well. Fruitier than the nose, and already one that needs to breathe. Somewhat sweeter than expected, caramel but also the brown sugar I got from the nose, all in good measure though. Tar and plastic yes, cherries? yes as well, but that’s about it. Does it matter? No, since it is a different kind of Sherried Whisky. Lots of (sweet) licorice (and toffee) in stead, it almost tastes salty. Again, a very interesting and tasty experience. Wonderful body, but it sometimes falls apart a bit in the finish (depending on the moment). Finish isn’t as long as one would think, but still has enough length. Well, if it’s a problem, take another sip then. Tar and coal make up the aftertaste, and Sherry of course.

For me, another gem in the Flora & Fauna range. Especially looking at those earlier bottlings, there were quite a few more than wonderful examples there. Mortlach, Blair Athol, Rosebank, all excellent. Worth looking for. I really need to have a look at more recent bottlings in this range to compare them to the older ones…

People start to pay silly money for the Flora & Fauna Mortlach, and it doesn’t even seem to matter if it’s an older one or one of the last. Granted, they are very good, but really, this 2001 bottling of Benrinnes is equally as good!

Points: 88

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Benrinnes 18yo 1993/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AA/ABJG)

This time I’ll have a look at a bottling from a distillery which “works for me”. I tend to like Benrinnes, so I’m absolutely flabbergasted that this distillery never featured before on these pages!

Benrinnes was founded way back in 1826 by Peter McKenzie, but destroyed within three years. Most distilleries that are destroyed somewhere in their history, are destroyed by fire, but Benrinnes was destroyed by water (flood), but don’t forget about fire just yet. Five years after the flood, a new farm distillery was built a few miles away and was called Lyne of Rutherie. This distillery changed hands a few times eventually David Edward became the owner. He renamed the distillery Benrinnes in 1864. In 1896 the distillery was almost completely wiped away by…yes, a fire. When David passed away, his son Alexander takes over. Alexander also founds Craigellachie (1891), Aultmore (1896) and Dallas Dhu (1898). Alexander also purchased Oban in 1898. Quite a busy decade for Alexander.

Benrinnes 18yo 1993/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogsheads, AAABJG)From 1955 through 1956, the distillery is again completely rebuilt, this time because of economics, not disaster. In 1966 the distillery is equipped with six stills, but are not configured in the expected three pairs which a normal double distilling distillery would have. Benrinnes have two groups of three stills which makes for a partial triple distilling configuration (sounds a bit like Springbank doesn’t it?).

Color: Gold

Nose: Full on aroma, flowery and perfumy Sherry. This leaps out of the glass and grabs you by the…nose, in a non-agressive way. Fruity sweet, dusty toffee. Tiny hint of roofing tar. Oxidized Sherry. Fino Sherry probably. Grassy and still floral. Horseradish. A promise of sweetness. There is some wood in here but it comes across as virgin oak, which also gives off some vanilla notes, so it seems to me this is from a Fino Sherry American oak hogshead.

Taste: Again lots of aroma. Sweet hops, Beer. Yes! Creamy sweet toffee and a hint of cardboard. Nutty, which again makes me think of an oxidized Sherry. When this is from refill Fino Hogsheads it picked up a lot of color, without it being reddish from Oloroso and such. Since this is from multiple casks, I’m wondering now if they would mix casks from different types of Sherries for this series, I’ll have to ask). The hoppy beer note stays well into the finish and that may be considered unusual and light, Late in the finish I also get some tangerine, with quite some vanilla. Interesting bottling. By the way, this one needs air and time.

The back label states this has a light body, but I sure beg to differ. Pretty special stuff if you ask me. The profile of this Whisky leaves me with some questions, so I’m not quite done with it yet. With bottlings like this I always wonder how the Whisky was before reduction, especially the finish. Benrinnes suits Gordon & MacPhail, would be a nice Whisky next to Benromach.

Points: 85