Taste Review 24 – Benrinnes 15 Flora and Fauna
There is an area just to the south of Aberlour which has a small clutch of distilleries. On the east side of the A95 there is Aberlour, GlenAllachie, Benrinnes and Allt-a-Ahainne. On the west side of the A95 there is Dailuaine and Dalmunach (built on the site of the former Imperial distillery). Apart from Aberlour, only the whisky enthusiast is likely to recognise the rest of these names. I feel however that this is away to change.
Benrinnes sits to the south east of Aberlour, just outside the hamlet of Edinville, in the shadow of the hill that gives the name to the distillery, and from its springs supplies the water for the whisky making processes.
Benrinnes is the highest hill in Speyside, with its summit being 840m above sea level. It’s unique shape is recognisable for miles around. It has a couple of granite tors on it like warts and it is a good couple of hours walk to the summit. Beneath its southern face on the lower slopes lies Allt-a-Bhainne distillery.
One fact about the Benrinnes distillery is that like Mortlach, it used to practice a partial triple distillation as illustrated below
This process took the feints (or the tails) from the wash still, and the weaker feints from the spirit still and distilled them again in a low wines (or intermediate) still. This process ended in 2007 at Benrinnes, but a 2.81 distillation still takes place at Mortlach. As this is a component of many Diageo blends, one wonders of the triple distillation was stopped to speed the process up and get more blending material to meet demand.
Dried fruits, toffee, rich, slight smoke.
Sweet, smooth full bodied, slight spicy edge, dried fruit, Caramel.
Short, dry with a slight spice, continuing with a dried fruit theme of raisins
Let’s get down to what this dram gets wrong. It is chill filtered and it has added colouring. You can see the difference in colour alongside the two independent bottles in the photograph above. I suspect that this is done to either to accentuate the colour of the spirit after being in a sherry cask, or it is to ensure colour consistency. I have recently bought a James Eadie Benrinnes cask strength bottle that was bottled after 13 years from a Madeira cask with no added colouring, and it is just slightly darker.
The Flora and Fauna bottling isn’t the best whisky in the world, but it is far from the worst. It has a great sherry influence, and a full, rich body which gives a dry hint of spicy heat at the end and a faint aroma of smoke. For those who miss the sherry bomb of the Mortlach 16 in the Flora and Fauna range, the Benrinnes 15 is a very close match.
I like this dram and I like it a lot. For the price paid, it gives a lot more than you would expect and it is one of the best bottles in the Flora and Fauna range that are still produced. It is relatively simple to get in the UK, and you will still see it at Diageo distilleries, and in specialist whisky shops and online retailers.
As the Flora and Fauna bottle is the only official release from this distillery, apart from a couple of special editions, your best bet if you want to experiment is to seek this one from an independent bottler. I have to say the one I tried from Robertson’s of Pitlochry was fantastic as a single cask, 9 year old, cask strength. Very spicy finish and my only regret was not buying 2. So, my James Eadie will be my Benrinnes independent drinking bottle and will be reviewed in due course.
Another brand which is bottled with Benrinnes is from A.D Rattray is the Stronachie bottling, which was a lost distillery; the spirit distilled in Benrinnes but matured in Bourbon casks is supposed to be close to the original Stronachie malt. I have a miniature of this, and it will be reviewed in the New Year.
And speaking of lost distilleries, Benrinnes stopped the partial distillation of its spirit in 2007. With 2022 being the last bottling date of the original style spirit, we remain to see if Benrinnes will go the way of other former F&F bottlings, and be replaced by a solo brand, such as what happened to Clynelish, Caol Ila, Dufftown and Glendullan.
I got in contact with Diageo, as I had also heard rumours about Dailuaine being discontinued. They replied that they could not reveal or deny any plans. But Benrinnes and Dailuaine have been in the F&F range since 1991. Maybe a change is due? We will see. Until then, if you see this on a shelf, buy it. It should cost about £52 which is not bad for a 15 y.o malt of this stature.
Until the next review….
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Benrinnes distillery – Martin Jenkins under Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Partial distillation diagram taken from Whisky Science under fair use.
Other pictures authors own.
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