Benriach is an independently owned distillery in Speyside. Located between the towns of Elgin and Rothes, this distillery was originally opened in 1897 but mothballed (this is when production is stopped but everything at the distillery remains intact) in 2002. Production restarted in 2004, following a change of ownership. The new independent consortium decided to return to traditional regional distilling methods whilst also being an innovator and trying to attract new consumers. They decided to use peat in their kilns, a practice that had died out in the Speyside region almost 100 years earlier and had whisky traditionalists frowning. As a result, they were one of the first Speyside distilleries to release some peated, smoky whiskies for a very long time. A few others are now following Benriach's lead. It is interesting that by returning to tradition, that they are seen as innovators! As mentioned, the new owners decided to attract new customers to their whisky by also experimenting with different cask finishes. These are released as limited editions and include whiskies that have been finished in sherry, port, rum and Madiera wine casks. Benriach also release a core range of 'classic Speyside style' whiskies with different age statements and independent bottlings are readily available. This particular bottling is a limited edition 16 years old that has been finished in Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes wine casks. It costs just under £40 per bottle from specialist retailers and only 1650 bottles are available. We had to snap one up!
The colour is golden and the nose is great and very promising. It is full of sweetness with a mixture of vanilla, honey, toffee, something floral (think of honeysuckle) and dried fruits (imagine sultanas). This is balanced with something light and fresh, that reminded me of fresh white grapes or a crisp white wine. On the palate, this is gorgeous and buttery with all the notes from the nose present. It is the lightness of the spirit in the mouth that is surprising, as the expectation would be that it would be richer or sweeter, as Sauternes is a very sweet, thick dessert wine. The finish is long but again light with the vanilla, honey and white wine notes prominent. Benriach have released a really good whisky here and it would be an excellent whisky to give to someone who maybe thinks that they don't like whisky. The combination of the age and the finishing in the Sauternes cask gives a great balance that is not too sweet or rich, which can tend to put people off a Sauternes finished whisky.