|The BenRiach Distillery is located in the ‘Heart of Speyside’, between the village of Rothes and the town of Elgin, in the North-East of Scotland. The BenRiach Distillery was built in 1898 by John Duff. It was mothballed (closed) after just two years and remained closed until 1965, when Glenlivet Distillers completely refurbished and reopened it. Throughout the eighties capacity was increased, but it was not until 1994 that the BenRiach was released as a single malt brand in its own right. The distillery was acquired in 2001 by Pernod Ricard and mothballed (for the second time) in 2002. In 2004 an independent consortium of Scotch whisky lovers, led by industry veteran Billy Walker, acquired the distillery and formed The BenRiach Distillery Company.The BenRiach distiller is able to produce a large variety of styles of Scotch thanks to the combination of their traditional floor maltings with their distinctive pagoda style chimneys as these can produce peated, malted barley, as well as using Speyside’s more traditional unpeated malted barley.
The BenRiach 15 Year Old Pedro Ximinez finish is one of their unpeated styles. It is matured in American ex-bourbon barrels, and then transferred to Pedro Ximinez Sherry butts. The whisky terminology for this process is called a ‘Finish’; the reason for this second period of maturation is to add further characteristics depending on the liquid that was previously held in the barrel. Some of the most common finishes are: Madeira, Rum, Port but there are also more unusual finishes such as Sauternes. As you would imagine, spending a few years in a barrel that previously contained Pedro Ximinez (a sweet, sticky almost toffee like wine), will give the whisky raisined and almost sweet characteristics.
On the bottle they proudly mention that the whisky has its ‘natural colour’ and is ‘non chill filtered’. With larger scale production, there can be batch variations in colour so caramel is a legal addition to whisky which guarantees the same colour in all bottles, no matter where in the world you buy them. Chill filtering is a standard process where whiskies are chilled down to 0 degrees Centigrade and then filtered to remove some of the oily compounds. If these compounds aren’t removed then they can make the whisky go hazy if it is chilled or ice is added to it. Though it is suggested that these compounds add to the depth and complexity of the whisky, so filtering them strips some of the ‘taste’ from the whisky.