In days gone by, Bennachie was the name of a distillery operating near the town of Insch in Scotland, as well as a mountain in the Speyside region. The mountain remains, while the whisky has come and gone more than once. The origin of the label begins with the Nether Jericho Farm where William Smith began distilling in 1820. Through several changes in ownership, the fully established Jericho distillery saw its name change to Bennachie before eventually being shuttered in 1913.
The Bennachie name was revived as an independent bottling label in 1998 with the full line of releases hitting the market in 2000. United Brands of La Mesa, California oversaw the brand during the early years of the 21st century. Today, United Brands focuses its efforts on bringing the flavored malt beverage Joose as well as Stack 101 lager to the market.
The Bennachie label as reviewed here was established as an independent bottling of what the company describes as a “pure malt.” The more common terms regarding similar Scotch releases would be malt blend, blended malt, or — more archaically — vatted malt. The now discontinued “pure malt” lineup originally included 10-year-old, 17-year-old, and 21-year-old releases each housed in a distinctive squared bottle reminiscent of those used by Elmer T. Lee and Old Medley bourbons.
Bennachie is no longer offered in the general retail market, but bottles of this 21-year-old release floating around secondary markets tend to price around $35 to just shy of $70.
Tasting Notes: Bennachie 21 Year Old
Vital stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), 100% malted barley, available in the $35-70 range on secondary markets.
Appearance: Light golden honey with greenish tones. Quick, thin legs.
Nose: Vanilla cream. Oak, more green than charred. Unidentifiable yet vaguely familiar chemical smell in the mix. Mint on the tail end of the nose.
Palate: Very delicate. Light on flavor with a very light burn. Sweet cream. Vanilla. Clean and straightforward. Very quick and light finish. Almost nonexistent. Aftertaste of cream soda.
Much has been written regarding the importance of age statements and just exactly how much or little they reflect quality of a given whisky. The obvious great attractor to someone unfamiliar seeking a bottle of this malt blend would likely be the idea of displaying an age statement in excess of two decades without having to shell out top dollar to do it. That is, unfortunately, where the value reaches its zenith.
Beyond a display piece, Bennachie 21-year-old falls completely flat as an example of the Speyside region or a malt blend. There was just nothing of note to cause me to seek out more as the dram passed by almost unnoticed. This does make me wonder how the 10 and 17-year-old offerings would have fared, but I doubt I will lose any sleep over not knowing.
FINAL SCORE: 70/100
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Joshua St. John
When not sampling whiskey, Joshua St. John can most likely be found running the trails of the Pacific Northwest surrounding his home in Portland, Oregon. A lifelong world-traveler, Joshua was first introduced to single malts while visiting distilleries in Scotland, and continues to explore the world through the countless interpretations...