The BenRiach website welcomes newcomers with the words “for discerning individuals.” After my first experience with their whisky at A Dram Come True I’d have to say they are definitely delivering on this promise. BenRiach, which means Hill of the Red Deer, was created in 1892 in Glenbervie, Speyside, right next to the Longmorn Distillery. It closed eight years later, only to reopen in 1965 and begin a carousel of different owners, including Glenlivet, Seagrams and Chivas Brothers, then finally Billy Walker with 2 South African investors. These private owners have led a renaissance at the distillery since acquiring it in 2004, adding some original products and creating a new identity for the brand. The oddballs of their lineup are 2 peated malts, Curiositas 10 year and Authenticus 21 year, odd because of the distilleries location in the heart of Speyside. The 21 year in particular is an interesting whisky to compare to its peated siblings in Islay.
Having tried a dram over a year ago with great memory, I took advantage recently of a discounted bottle, hoping for a repeat performance. Authenticus is certainly smoky, one whiff delivers layers of sweet, rich burnt notes, although free from the more volatile notes of salt, iodine and wet campfire. The smokiness integrates well with the flavors from the extended oak aging, but remains sweet in the finish and not filled with the dry tannin of many extended age whiskies. The lingering aftertaste of chocolate covered raisins is the defining characteristic, a unique dark fruitiness with hints of gentle spice. At 46%, this dram feels just right and in my opinion adding water diminishes the delicious chocolate raisin notes. Authenticus has some value, at under $100 for a 21 year old, and delivers lots of character at the price point.