We're in Speyside today as we look at Benrinnes, another distillery in Diageo's vast portfolio of blending workhorses. Luckily, they supply a good number of casks to independent bottlers so let's find out if the spirit shines on its own.
Auld Goonsy's Malt Benrinnes 12yo Cask #307314
This release was distilled in 2008 and aged for 12 years in an American Oak Hogshead. It was bottled by Global Whisky Limited under their Auld Goonsy's Malt label.
Pickled onion monster munch crips - it's got a real sour note mixed with a corn sweetness. There's a nice malty chocolate note - cocoa puffs and a little roasted hazelnut. The alcohol really shows on the nose, and there's a solid oakiness there too. There's a light smokiness to it, reminiscent of a burning log fire more than peat smoke. Going back after some air, we're getting a light vanilla essence, a touch of apple and a floral white lily note.
Sweet cereals, sweet vanilla, sweet apple.. a lot of sweetness right off the bat. There's a real woodiness here, quite drying on the mouth with a fair bit of peppery spice too. We're getting a lot of orchard fruits here, freshly juiced apples, pears and also gooseberries. The alcohol is quite present again, showing quite aggressively on the back palate, but due to the huge amount of sweetness, it's sort of in balance. The finish is medium length but a little thin, mostly alcohol, dry oak and icing sugar.
Nose (with water)
We're getting some grapes that've been left out on the kitchen counter for a little too long and the smoke that we were getting before has increased somewhat, showing itself as the wisps you get from a recently extinguished cigarette. There's a little fermented funkiness now, but there are some underlying poached pears and sour Haribo sweeties.
Palate (with water)
Much drier with considerably less upfront sweetness and more sour fruit - granny smith apple, underripe cherries and a hint of banana. There's a lot of oak here, rich vanilla and more of the black pepper spiciness. There's some high percentage cocoa chocolate that appears, with a burnt caramel flavour on top.
This is one of those drams where the nose and the palate couldn't be further apart. We go from a really sour, dry, oaky and slightly smokey nose to a sweet, fruity and even more sweet palate. For us, it's a little out of balance with the alcohol and dryness. There's nothing really wrong with this dram, but there's nothing that's really blowing us away.
North Star Spirits Benrinnes 8yo 2012 Oloroso Barrique
This bottle was released as part of the series 16 outturn from North Star.
Initially we're getting some redcurrant jam, fresh raspberries, some artificial strawberry and a touch of damp earth. The nose is really tight, and it's tough to get much from it. Getting our noses deep inside the glass just seems to present more of a condensed alcohol smell. Going back to it after time and air, and there's light vanilla and charred oak, with a something like a sweetened cardamom cream. Despite all of this, the nose is relatively fresh, even if a bit muted.
Sour cherry on the front of the palate, following into a real savoury salted caramel and a hint of caramelised white chocolate. It's very reminiscent of a decently aged tawny port, we're getting nutty caramel, toffee, rich brown sugar and walnuts. Usually we'd like to write a few more notes about the flavours, but we think we've got it spot on with the port wine comparison. The finish has a good length but we will say that the alcohol is a bit out of balance, a little too strong compared with the other flavours.
Nose (with water)
We're now getting those rich, nutty, caramel forward scents on the nose that we previously got on the palate without the water. A lot of the fresher fruit aromas have disappeared, but the alcohol has also reduced in intensity which we feel is a good thing - it's much more in balance now.
Palate (with water)
It's even richer than before, if that's possible. Chocolate ganache, cherry ice cream, with a vanilla oak sweetness riding through. There is a bitterness in there, but it's not too much to override the other flavours. It's really luscious in the mouth, nutty yet sweet. The finish has a slightly better length now.
This is exactly what we'd expect if you threw in an extra 30% alcohol into a twenty year old tawny port.. and it's really quite nice. We may be biased, enjoying port a lot, but the rich nutty caramel and cherry flavours are really to our tastes. The nose was a little bit of a letdown seeing as it's quite restrained, but the palate makes up for it. A touch unbalanced in its alcohol but at the price it's pretty great value. We'd grab a bottle.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
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