BenRiach 1990 AD

"Rather unique experience with unexpected notes after giving this dram some water and breathing time"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

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The BenRiach Distillery (please do not forget the “The”) was built by John Duff in 1897, but due to the Patterson crash ran only for two years. Sixty-five years went by without producing a drop before the distillery slowly started distilling again. The first single malt was released in 1994, but only when Billy Walker took over the distillery fans could start to appreciate the distillate in regular official bottlings. This independently bottled BenRiach was distilled during Seagram’s ownership and was matured in a refill South African sherry cask. South African sherry you ask? Indeed, I was also not aware that they produce sherry over there, but they have done that for over 80 years. The story of South African sherry is strongly connected with Charlie Niehaus, who brought the “flor”, an essential part of sherry making, to South African. Unfortunately, the part of the “fallen handkerchief in the sherry cask to steal the flor” is not true, but still he played an essential part in setting the local sherry scene.


It starts fairly quite with some fruits (apples, oranges and tangerines) and a few citric and grassy tones. Old wood, hay stopped by a kick of the spirit. Probably this needs some time and water to open up. So after 1 and a half tea spoon of water it indeed provides a wider range of scents. Lemon merengue pie, cucumber, more tangerines (now from tin) and after a while suddenly liquorice and marzipan arise. What a pleasant surprise! Fruit liquorice (cherry-flavour), marzipan chocolate figures, and it gets fruitier with cooked peaches, perfectly ripe nectarines and freshly made almond paste.


Oh yeah heavy kick of the alcohol, followed by minerals (iron, calcium) and lemon juice. Also some waxy notes, baked apple, old wood, straw and copper. Water brings more minerals, wax, wet wood, and also here after a while liquorice and marzipan. Black liquorice, dark chocolate filled with cherry liquor, old Spanish style rum and drying wood. The aftertaste is rather long with more liquorice, rum, cherries, chocolate and wood.


An interesting whisky, which does harbour some of the classical BenRiach notes (as far as I know them). In particular, the late development in combination with a drop of water was a added bonus to the experience. I got some rather unique notes not often found in matured whisky. Good choice from the organisation to end this year’s excellent blind tasting competition.

What others say

Whiskybase: 85.62 (31 votes)
Read for yourself

This sample was part of organised by Whisky4all!


these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •

Cask influence
Sweet <-> Spicy
Nose 87.5%
Taste 86.5%
Balance 87%
Depth 88%
Finish 86%