Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Highs and Lows

BenRiach Solstice 17 Second Edition - 50%

Port and Peat, not Short and Sweet
Curiositas! Heredotus Fumosus! Septemdecim! Authenticus! No, not a wand fight in the Gryffindor common room but a series of peated offerings from Speyside independent distillers, BenRiach.

Less Hogwarts-y but no less peaty is the 17 year old Benriach Solstice, an ex-bourbon matured whisky finished in Tawny Port casks and presented at 50%, un-chillfiltered and at natural colour.

Red fruits dominate but are underscored by an appetising coal tar note with beach bonfires lending support. Blackberries and board markers make an appearance, getting stronger as the whisky opens up.

Water has a devastating effect on the red fruits but reveals marzipan and black cherries. The coal tar makes a swift exit leaving billowing smoke and toasted almonds in its wake.

Sharp and fizzy at first with sour fruit and dying embers. Modest peppery notes; pleasant but far more savoury than the nose would suggest.

Water sweetens the sour notes and, although only just, takes the edge off of the spice. Black cherries join the party.

Initially drying. Medium long with a phenolic haze. Flecks of chilli on the sides of the tongue make things interesting.

Water adds a touch of magic to the affair and lengthens the finish to an incredible extent. Far less phenolic now but the chilli evolves into a full-on assault. Balanced out by a drying sweetness and obvious woodiness, which is bold but not overdone.

This one had me at sixes and sevens. The nose yelled dessert but the undiluted palate pulled the rug from underneath me. It's been a long time since a dram has made me work so hard. Not immediately accessible but stick with it and you'll be richly rewarded. Deliciously complex and, at 50%, excellent value for money.

Grade: B
Port and peat is not everyone's dream pairing but it works very well here. A fireside dram to sit and chew over, just don't let the nose fool you.

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