There are many distilleries without a discernible single malt presence—they’re often referred to as blend fillers, because that’s what they are, in essence. It sounds a bit derogatory. And it probably is. However, not all blend fillers are born equal.
On the one hand, there’s distilleries like Allt-a-Bhainne and Braeval that have yet to prove they can produce anything transcending. Almost all of their production is used by its owner in blends—which is fine, because that’s what they’re there for. Even independent bottlers rarely release whisky from these dime-a-dozen distilleries.
However, there’s another side to this. There are many so-called blend fillers with a potential for single malt greatness. While 95% of their whisky ends up in blends, these distilleries produce a distillate with character and a certain singularity. Probably the best example is Clynelish.
Not quite at the level of Clynelish, Benrinnes is another such distillery with a whisky that’s full of character, working well with both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry maturation. It’s a bold distillate with a sulphury edge, yet there’s a fruity and malty base.
As of late, Adelphi has released a series of heavily-sherried Benrinnes, all from 2006. Today’s particular edition was released to commemorate the centenary of the RAF Benevolent Fund, a welfare charity for the British Royal Air Force. Five pounds of each bottle sold was donated to the fund.
Benrinnes 2006 RAF Benevolent Fund (56.5%, Adelphi, C#305391)
Nose: Very fruity, with loads of cherries and forest fruits, and even a hint of raspberry. But it also has a sweet side, mainly nougat and cotton candy. Everything is balanced by a hint of Wasa Whole Grain Crispbread and aceto balsamico.
Taste: It has much more of a kick than I expected based on the nose, although nothing too extreme. Notes of leather and oak, as well as nutmeg, but also oatmeal cookies and dark chocolate. Even a touch of aniseed and bitter espresso.
Finish: Long and lingering bitterness, with a touch of chocolate.
So many of the heavily sherried whiskies I’ve tasted lately have been insanely intense and very dry. This Benrinnes is therefore a nice surprise. Initially it was fruity and sweet, but the palate offers a little more roughness and bitterness. Overall a very pleasant experience. Thanks for sharing, Erik!