Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as review samples by Benriach. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy links towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
I first reviewed Benriach Malting Season and Smoke Season in February of this year, following the generally well-regarded 2021 release of the two expressions. I was not terribly impressed with Smoke Season but did enjoy the first edition of Malting Season. This year I found much more to enjoy in both Benriach Single Malt Scotch Whisky expressions.
In a prepared statement, Master Blender Rachel Barrie says of Benriach Second Edition Malting Season, “Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with Benriach.”
Benriach Malting Season is made entirely from barley malted at the Speyside distillery, utilizing their special floor malting method, wherein water-steeped barley is spread across the malting room floor and turned by hand to ensure the perfect amount of germination of the barley. The turning of the barley is required to maintain an even microclimate in the grain, as irregular germination could occur if not properly tended to.
Surprisingly, Benriach is one of the few distilleries in Scotland who practice this classic technique, but after reading about the care and skill it takes to produce whisky from this method, I admire the whisky and those creating it even more. It requires those tending to the barley to learn by sight the moment the barley is ready to be transferred to the kiln, surely an ability learned over time.
On to the second edition of Benriach Smoke Season, about which Barrie says, “Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and these annual releases give both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet and smoky character of our Speyside single malt.” This point is well received from this reviewer, as I would definitely consider this expression a more accessible Scotch whisky with the distinct smoky flavor profile that one attributes to Scotch without leaving one feeling as though they’ve smoked an entire cigar.
This small batch release explores 100% intensely peated malt, run through its stills – a tradition revived more than 50 years ago by the Benriach distillery but a one-a-year rarity. The peat itself comes from the Highlands of Scotland and (according to the distillery) Benriach holds the “oldest and rarest peated inventory in Scotland, dating back to 1975.”
Tasting Notes: Benriach Second Edition Malting Season
Appearance: An almost translucent honeyed hay color.
Nose: Strong notes of wet foliage, honey, peach or apricot seed, and sweet lemon drop.
Palate: A little sweet, a little tart, a little funk – that’s the trilogy of sensations I got from this tasting. The whisky enjoys notes of dandelion, oatmeal, and vanilla bean, with a hint of citrus and a short finish.
Final Thoughts: This is a very pleasant sip. I would love to offer friends who aren’t naturally drawn to Scotch whisky as an example of the myriad options of the classic spirit. I enjoy witnessing the innovation being explored by Benriach and Master Distiller Barrie.
Tasting Notes: Benriach Second Edition Smoke Season
Appearance: Glazed yellow corn.
Nose: BBQ and sweet corn, charred bits of peat.
Palate: Meat smoked on an open fire, balsam, caramel, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. It’s a strong smoky profile without blowing out the palate.
Final Thoughts: I could go so far as to say I might enjoy this Scotch as a sipper, as the smokiness has found a pleasant balance and doesn’t overpower the other notes in the whisky. I would still give pause to offer this before the Malting Season expression, but I do think that Scotch fans will appreciate the complexity of this spirit.