BENRIACH SCOTCH -- THE OLDER YEARS
by Andrew Chalk
Every Scotch producer makes long (barrel) aged expressions of their signature product. The older the expression, the higher the price. The minimum age for Scotch under Scottish law is three years in cask. Most serious aficionados look for much older examples.
Five years is ubiquitous. Ten years common. Twelve years available. Fifteen and older evoke exaggerated interest from the cognoscenti. Recently, I reported on a media tasting of 10-year old Benriach, a single malt Speyside Scotch that is engaging ever more intensely with the American market.
Subsequently, I had the chance to delve back to the last century with 21, 25, and 30 year old examples of Benriach. It was like a step into the time tunnel.
The 21-year old exhibits mollifying of the alcoholic fierceness of young Scotch. Twenty five and thirty year old examples emphasize this even more. At the same time, ageing allows the resolving of the flavors into a more complex whole. Perhaps no distilled spirit ages more gracefully than whisky, and Scotch adheres to that pattern.
There is so little 21+ year old Scotch made that, even with low interest rates, it can cost exponentially more than 10-year old Scotch. To hardened enthusiasts, the extra is well worth it.