Review: Four BenRiach single cask bottlings from Batch 10 reviewed

BR_Batch_10_1976_cask_#_2013_infront_LRSelected by BenRiach’s Master Blender Billy Walker, the twelve-expression Batch 10 from the Elgin distillery was bottled in June 2013 and all bottlings are available as of 17th July.

Batch 10 comprises sublime Speyside vintages ranging from 1976 to 2005. Cask types vary from Moscatel and Virgin American Oak Hogsheads to Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheons and Barrels.

I’ve been lucky enough to review four from the range, so read on to see my quick thoughts!


(To see full details on the 12 expressions… [expand title=”click here for more info!)” trigclass=”noarrow”]1976 cask # 2013 / 37 years old / Classic Speyside / 49.6%vol
1977 cask # 1031 / 36 years old / Moscatel Finish / 54.9%vol
1978 cask # 1047 / 35 years old / Moscatel Finish / 51.1%vol
1983 cask # 296 / 30 years old / Classic Speyside / 43.9%vol
1984 cask # 1051/ 28 years old / Peated / Pedro Ximenez Sherry Finish / 49.9%vol
1985 cask # 7188 / 27 years old / Peated / Virgin American Oak Finish / 48.9%vol
1988 cask # 4000 / 24 years old / Tawny Port Finish / 52.6%vol
1992 cask # 986 / 21 years old /  Pedro Ximenez Sherry Finish / 53.3%vol
1994 cask # 4385 / 18 years old / Virgin American Oak Finish / 55.5%vol
1996 cask # 10306 / 17 years old / Marsala Finish / 56.0%vol
1998 cask # 7633 / 15 years old / Triple Distilled / PX Sherry Finish / 56.1%vol
2005 cask # 3782 / 8 years old / Peated / Virgin American Oak Finish / 58.1%vol[/expand]

The four I was lucky enough to review are:

1976 cask # 2013 / 37 years old / Classic Speyside / 49.6%vol
1984 cask # 1051/ 28 years old / Peated / Pedro Ximenez Sherry Finish / 49.9%vol
1992 cask # 986 / 21 years old /  Pedro Ximenez Sherry Finish / 53.3%vol
1994 cask # 4385 / 18 years old / Virgin American Oak Finish / 55.5%vol

1976 / 37yo – 49.6% Review:

Colour: Bright gold
Nose: Classic Speyside nose… rich malty tones intertwined with vanilla and sweet old ripe summer fruits. A genuinely fabulous full quality nose which you know is something good before you start.
Palate: Smooth sweet malty goodness, a little spice and luscious oils covering your mouth which mellows out quickly into tropical notes.
Finish: Warming and long, sweet and sumptuous with a slightly sour wood note right at the end.
Thoughts: This is totally my sort of dram, old and refined, I’d love a bottle of this, but at the price it’s never going to happen. An aged beauty that I’m privileged to have tasted. If I were to have a criticism, it would be that I’d like the very ending sour note/tannin to be smoothed out (maybe water would do that), and for that reason alone I’d not spend that sort of money. Let’s face it, if you have that money hanging around you’d get a Port Ellen or a Brora, right?

Around £370.

1984 / 28yo – 49.9% Review:

Colour: Full gold, amber, touch of reddy orange tints.
Nose: Argh, before I even get my nose to the glass the air is filled with wonderful smoky peaty aromas. Sure enough when your nose is in the glass you get wonderful earthy / heathery peat notes mixed alongside well balanced sweetness from the PX sherry casks used to mature. Slight leathery notes and then malt sweetness. This dram left me nosing for ages.
Palate: Thick mouthfeel and a really heavy dunnage oaky note, damp old wood quickly followed up by lashings of mossy earthy peat and then mild spices. It’s reasonably powerful, but soft enough to enjoy and feel relaxed with. Intensely pleasurable dram balanced with perfect sweetness from the winter fruits… None of the sour notes that BenRiach occasionally leaves me with, it’s peaty and sweet. However none of the salty island peat that you might expect with something from Islay, a mainland peat experience which I’m really enjoying.
Finish: Warming, like a hug, old enough to have smoothed out young peat and spirit to make this an aged beauty. The finish is really long, PX fruity sweet with smoke notes hanging around for a good while.
Thoughts: This must have been a peat belter at less than 10 years old, but for me the age has moulded it into more of a place I’m happy with. I haven’t given the others in this review a score, but this one’s well into the ’90s for me, I’m hoping to afford a bottle before they all sell out!

Available from The Whisky Exchange, around £145.

1992 / 21yo – 53.3% Review:

Colour: Dark golden mahogany.
Nose: Beautifully relaxed and smooth, sweet fruity sultanas and stewed apples.
Palate: For it’s highish ABV this matches the nose, it’s relaxed and smooth on your palate, not particularly hot and just a wee pinch of spices, quite delightful in fact. The sweet sherry fruits play nicely on your tongue in what’s a fairly thick oily mouthfeel. The smallest hint of smoke, maybe that’s just from the cask charring.
Finish: Really long and warming, sweet and fruity with a touch of wood tannins in the background.
Thoughts: This dram does what it says on the tin (as the saying goes), the nose matches the palate and the finish well, there’s no surprises other than the sheer quality and enjoyability of this dram… This is my second visit to it, and it just improves the more I have it. Expensive, but much more affordable to mortals like you and me (ok so I’m assuming you’re a mortal). The level of sweetness keeps me a happy bunny, not too much, but enough to banish any of the sour notes that I often grapple with in a BenRiach. A drop of water brings the rich PX sultana fruits forward just that bit more (that’s worthwhile).

Available from The Whisky Exchange, around £94.

1994 / 18yo – 55.5% Review:

Colour: Full gold / amber.
Nose: Slight burn from the high ABV, spicy and sweet, vanilla, hints of American whisky (obviously there isn’t any, it’s virgin oak, however that’s how American whisky is matured, so the similarities are there). Soft honey and oak notes, and with time to breath malt tones come through by the shovelful.
Palate: Powerful; warm your palate up first so you’re not shocked, but if you have, this is great fun on your tongue… reasonably hot, spicy, woody (newish / fresh sawn wood, not old dunnage type). Surprisingly ‘juicy’ / fruity, sprightly and not overly sweet, but sweetness is there enough so that the fresh wood is well balanced.
Finish: Warming, and reasonably long, interestingly fun and different… Malt lingers as a lasting thought over any wood that was up front beforehand.
Thoughts: I’ve said ‘fun’ a couple of times, I can’t help but say it again, it’s maybe a slightly more ‘modern’ feel than the other offerings I’ve reviewed above, and for that it gets my attention. However at £80 would I buy a bottle? I’m not sure I would, but I would happily have a dram of this if I were offered it but I think I’d fall out of love with it if I had a whole bottle to get through (20cl bottles please BenRiach!!). A drop of water keeps the youthful wood and exaggerates the vanilla a little, it also allows more classic Speyside style to come through.

Available from The Whisky Exchange, around £79.


Final thoughts…. The problem with reviews are that they’re based on my opinions… someone else might have a different palate and likes / dislikes to me. However, for me the peated ’84 was the star of the show, followed by the ’92 and ’76 (they’re a draw) and then the ’94. Something always has to come last, not to say that it’s bad! But for me it’s the peated ’84 that shines, I just wish it was cheaper, although compared to others of a similar age and quality on the market at the moment, it seems average in price.

Thanks to BenRiach for the samples.

Limited release, you’ll need to use your Google skills to find some to buy!


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