BenRiach is a distillery that is know for various things. The most noticably are there terrific old releases, of which the 1976 bottlings are truly stunning. There are other oldies regularly that are pretty terrific too (the 1975 for Asta Morris comes to mind).
On the other end of the spectrum they have been releasing a lot of younger bottlings with all kinds of gimmicky finishes (all kinds of wine casks). The last couple of years they also have added a few ‘regulars’ to their line-up with other deviations: triple distillation, virgin oak releases and rather noticably: their peat/port combinations.
These Solstice releases, which are the peat/port combinations, have been received very well. One of these peat and port combo’s even won a very prestigious Malt Maniacs Awards. How I’d love to get my hands on that one (at a fair price)!
This 15 year old is their standard Solstice release and last year they added a 17 year old. Not sure if that one replaced the 15 or is an addition, though.
At first I mostly got loads and loads of peat smoke. There is a significant but light sweetness hiding behind it though. Stewed strawberries and rhubarb, but I also get a diesel fire and charcoal. Off to a good start!
The palate is rich and fruity, with the strawberries again. Then I get wood, smoke, peat, a light dusting of pepper and some heat as well. It builds up to become even sharper, but also richer in flavour.
The finish has a flavour of an extinguished campfire with smoldering logs you doused with water. Charcoal and wood smoke. Also something mossy and fruity but less so than on the palate. Not very long, but good.
I tried this a couple of years ago and wasn’t a fan at all. Didn’t think it was all that interesting. Therefore I was a bit apprehensive of trying this again. I think my palate has changed a bit because now I really love this dram. I even added the 17 year old to my wishlist to pick up when I visit the distillery. Delicious and very worthy of a couple tenners.
The fruit and soot combination works rather well, in my opinion and it is very different from a peated sherry cask. I have enough of those I think, but this is a bottle worthy of adding to my humble collection.
BenRiach Solstice 15yo, 50% (peated, port finish), you might be able to find it at about € 60. The 17 will set you back a bit more.