Guest post: The Battle of the Benrinnes (1979 vs 2000)

It’s been some time, but I’ve got another guest-post lined up for you! My friend Tom van Engelen wrote about his experience comparing two Benrinnes to each other. Their distillation date is more than two decades apart so there should be some differences based on only that!

Take it away, Tom!


Ever since I visited the Benrinnes Distillery high up on the slopes of this famous Speyside mountain, during the Spirit of Speyside festival 2019, I keep on gathering information and (of course) booze from that Diageo production site. In times past the distillery was one of the few to have a weird distilling regime of more than 2 times per go. Like Mortlach and Linkwood still do. Turns out, as workers told me, in these days Benrinnes is made in a more traditional two-time run. The meatier ones have my interest, so when I had to chance to buy a sample of a 1979 vintage, I put it together with a Cadenhead Small Batch from a 2000 vintage that I own myself. The first expression was bottled when the second was distilled.

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Benrinnes 1979-2000, bottled at 46% by Ian Macleod

Benrinnes 20 1979 Dun BheaganSniff:
A slight touch of glue covers a delicately wood smoke character. Very interesting. Something fruity in there too. A fine balance.

Sip:
Fine spirit-driven mouth feel in a good balance with the 20 years maturation. After holding it a little it turns peppery and hot in the mouth. Probably a good decision to bottle this at 46%. Very elegant mouthfeel though, softer and more gentle than I expected.

Swallow:
Here is the punch I was waiting for. A good, malty finish that keeps on lingering long after it’s gone down. I get a better impression from the texture of the distillate now than upon sipping.

Very nice that the wood maturation plays second fiddle to the spirit. Feels like an old-style whisky, with a good dash of smoked fruit (is that a thing?) to bind it all together.

88/100 points.

Benrinnes 2000-2019, bottled as a Small Batch by Cadenhead at 55,7%

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Remarkably similar but a lot more “glue” scent to the front. Is this what Ian Macleod wanted to tone down in the 1979? I like the candy shop smells that emerges from under the glue tones. If smell would have a color, in this Benrinnes it would be pink. I don’t detect smoky notes though.

Sip:
More active wood has given this expression a sweet tooth but also some vanilla dominance. Just on the right side of what I like, so it’s positive. Remarkably consistent production actually, but this one is more “fat” than the 1979.

Swallow:
Here the wood influence, 4 bourbon barrels according to the label, shows some nice spices.

It is a rather waxy finish, I have to say, not totally unrelated to what I like in Clynelish actually.

87/100 points.

I had the Cadenhead at 86 points but diluting it for honest comparison really improved the finish with some nice lemon notes. The Ian Macleod does come out on top for a better balance, perhaps due to a wise choice not to go for cask strength.

The Cadenhead is still for sale at some retailers, like The Shining Dram


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About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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