Forward with Scotch (Whisky) Independence!

Taste Review #67 – Dailuaine 19 and Benrinnes 16


As has been mentioned in the past when I’ve been writing about whisky, especially those I collect, I tend to steer away from Independent bottlings. These are because I feel that these may not be as worth as much when I come to sell. In the past I’ve even seen them as inferior, which is not the case at all. This meant that I mistakenly did not give them much attention but recent experiences in my whisky journey over the past year have come to educate me that this is a gross error on my part.

One of the great things about this whisky community is that you are often able to experience different whiskies thanks to sample swapping or a generous gift from a fellow enthusiast. In this case for this weeks double review we have to thank Tobi of Barleymania.com (another great blog – perhaps even better than mine hahahah!). After a conversation with him online about how much I enjoy Benrinnes, Tobi sent me a sample of the Douglas Laing’s Old Particular 16 year old Benrinnes. It didn’t end there. Tobi also sent the Dailuaine which has been bottled by Grindlays that I am also writing about today. This was sent as an apology for not sending the Benrinnes quicker! If you are reading this Tobi, I am very grateful and I will return the generosity with another independent Benrinnes soon but be assured I move with the speed approaching that of continental drift.

Both today’s whiskies are from Speyside, and are relatively close to each other, just to the south of Aberlour. Benrinnes sits on the lower slopes of the hill that holds the same name, whereas Dailuaine is closer to the Spey and the village of Carron. Benrinnes is the older of the two distilleries with the original being built in 1826, and rebuilt in 1829 after being destroyed in a flood. Going through a handful of owners, by 1925 it came into the possession of DCL who later morphed into the current owner Diageo.

Opened in 1851, close neighbour Dailuaine had the privilege of being connected to the Speyside Railway, even having its own railway halt and small locomotive (known as a puggie) for shuttling its freight to the goods yard at Carron Railway station and Imperial Distillery. The locomotive still survives at the Aberfeldy distillery, and the engine shed still survives at Dailuaine, although the Speyside line closed in 1968, and all other traces of the puggie branch line have gone.

Dailuaine was also the first distillery to have a pagoda style roof over the kiln, more correctly known as a Doig Ventilator, which was designed by the architect of many distilleries Charles Doig. It was installed in 1884 but sadly was lost when the distillery burnt down in 1917.

Dailuaine has one or two things in common to Benrinnes. In 1925 it was also bought by DCL, later to become part of Diageo. Both distilleries were part of the Flora and Fauna releases in 1991, and continue to be so. How long this will continue is anybody’s guess. Benrinnes is quite common as an independent bottle but Dailuaine not so common, mostly being used to provide filler for blends.

Both whiskies have a meaty, heavy style similar to Mortlach, especially those releases that have been matured in a Sherry cask. But what will these independent releases be like?


The samples

Dailuaine 19 (Grindlays)

RegionSpeyside Strength – 57% . Colour – Ripe Corn Nose – Malt, sawdust, nuts, honey, vanilla. Palate – waxy mouthfeel, slightly drying. Not such a big hit when considering it is cask strength. Honey, orange. Water intensified the spice and made the honey more apparent Finish – Medium. Spice notes, honey and a slight tannic dryness of tea. The addition of water intensified the spiciness

Ex Bourbon Cask, Natural Colour, Non-Chillfiltered.


Dailuaine dram

Benrinnes 16 (Douglas Laing Old Particular)

Region Speyside Strength – 56% Colour – Deep Gold Nose – Deep Creamy fudge, vanilla. Ginger nuts, caramelised sugar, apple crumble Palate Oily mouthfeel, but not overly heavy. Gives a nice coating. As with any sherry casked whisky there are an abundance of fruity flavours, but also nuts in there too. Raisins, Blackberries, Hazlenut, Cocoa, leather, figs. Cinnamon, Finish – Whoaaa There – wasn’t expecting this. Oak spices, I get a tobacco note / dry wood. Dark chocolate. Warm, medium – long and more-ish.

Ex Sherry Butt, Natural Colour, non chill filtered.


Benrinnes Dram

Conclusions

Both drams were fantastic. I spent a whole evening with these whiskies, allowing a respectable amount of time between them. I have to say that on an initial blind tasting that I preferred the Benrinnes, but this is not a surprise. For me it had a pleasant smoothness coupled with the rich fruit flavours.

Both are still available online if you look, despite being limited edition. The Grindlays Dailuaine can be found at Tyndrum Whisky for £94. The Benrinnes is a bit harder to get as I could not find any source online other than auctions – quite a feat considering it was only bottled last year. Keep an eye open for it – you will not regret buying this.

Lastly, thanks go again to Tobi. You can visit his blog by clicking on this link Barleymania.com

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

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The dizzying heights of Benrinnes

Taste Review 24 – Benrinnes 15 Flora and Fauna

Benrinnes with the distillery in the foreground.

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

The partial distillation process

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.

The Dram

Region

Speyside

Age

15 y.o

Strength

43% a.b.v

Colour

Amber

Nose

Dried fruits, toffee, rich, slight smoke.

Palate

Sweet, smooth full bodied, slight spicy edge, dried fruit, Caramel.

Finish

Short, dry with a slight spice, continuing with a dried fruit theme of raisins

Alongside independent bottlings

Conclusion

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….

Slainte Mhath!


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Picture credits

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.


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.