by Andrew Chalk
I tasted samples of each side-by-side and was struck with how distinct and different they were. For example, the Smoky Season is deeply and intensely smoky. While the Malting Season is malt and fruit.
FROM THE WIRES…
BENRIACH SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY RELEASES SECOND EDITIONS MALTING SEASON AND SMOKE SEASON EXPRESSIONS
SCOTLAND (SEPTEMBER 27, 2022) – Benriach Single Malt Scotch Whisky announces the second edition releases of Malting Season and Smoke Season, two annual expressions that reflect the traditional methods of Scotch whisky-making dating back to the earliest days of the Speyside distillery. In a nod to Benriach’s mothballed history where it remained in operation through floor malting and producing peated whiskies for other distilleries, these releases reflect the time-honored practices that occur once per year.
Similar to the first edition introduced in the U.S. for the very first time in 2021, the second edition of Benriach Malting Season is created with a unique process that brings out the wholesome, creamy flavor found in the distillery’s floor malted spirit. For this year’s edition, Master Blender Rachel Barrie selected Concerto barley (same as first edition), and slightly increased the barrel strength – resulting in a slightly different flavor profile, thus making each annual edition a truly unique expression in its own right.
Benriach is one of only seven distilleries in Scotland that continues this centuries-old tradition. The floor malting method is a highly skilled process requiring the delicate and skilled hand of a team of dedicated craftspeople. After being steeped in water, the barley is spread across the malting room floor and turned by hand over several days to allow for optimum germination of the barley. Using their keen eye, the malting team decides when the barley is ready to move to the kiln and the iconic pagoda-shaped chimney comes alive.
Benriach Smoke Season is a small batch release that captures one of the distillery’s time-honored seasonal production techniques where peated spirit runs through its stills, representing a tradition revived by the distillery over 50 years ago. The spirit is the result of exploring 100% intensely peated malt, batch distilled and matured in first fill bourbon barrels combined with a high proportion of charred and toasted American virgin oak casks.
While smoky whiskies are not traditionally associated with Speyside, a look back through Benriach’s archives shows that heavily peated single malts were the preferred palate of the region in the 19th century. Both intensely smoked and exquisitely sweet, the recipe for the second edition remains the same as the first and is made with Highland peat, which is sourced from the mainland and derived from ancient trees and heather – a far cry from the majority of peat sourced near the sea on the West Coast and Islay. This character produces a distinct aromatic smoke that toasts the barley at Benriach, resulting in an intense thread of sweet smoke interwoven with the distillery’s staple orchard fruit character.
“Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with Benriach,” said Master Blender Rachel Barrie. “Meanwhile Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and these annual releases give both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet and smoky character of our Speyside single malt. At Benriach, we never stop exploring how fruit, oak, barley and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in our broad range of eclectic casks.”
Malting Season – 48.9% ABV, $159.99 suggested retail price (700ml)
Color: Barley gold
Nose: Malt sweetness with barley sugar and mandarin covered in white chocolate
Palate: Honeycomb infused with citrus and orchard apple
Finish: Fruit, malt and vanilla cream
Smoke Season – 52.8% ABV, $77.99 suggested retail price (750ml)
Color: Burnished gold
Nose: Barbecue smoked fruit in a pine forest
Palate: Sweet caramel smoke and cinnamon-spiced roasted apple
Finish: Charred orange peel and hickory
Benriach Malting and Smoke Season whiskies are available in limited quantities in select markets. For more information on all Benriach expressions, visit www.benriachdistillery.com.