BenRiach is a distillery firmly on the up after an unusual and occasionally difficult past. The distillery was built just a stone's-throw from Longmorn by the latter's owner John Duff in 1898 - just months before the disastrous Pattison crash, which put the entire Scotch whisky industry in peril.
Many distilleries owed money by the Glasgow blenders went to the wall, never to reopen. Barely in its infancy, BenRiach was mothballed in 1900 - and was to remain silent for the next 65 years.
During this time, however, BenRiach's floor maltings continued to operate, providing malt for sister distillery Longmorn. In the 1960s the distillery was bought and completely refurbished by Glenlivet, re-opening for distillation in 1965. Glenlivet was bought by Chivas Brothers in 1978, with the company's parent Seagram deciding to produce peated malt for their blends at BenRiach from 1983 (production today is around 10% peated malt)and expanding capacity with the addition of two new stills in 1985.
In 1994, almost 100 years after opening, the first official bottling of BenRiach as a single malt (a fairly nondescript 10 year-old) was released. The floor-maltings were mothballed in 1999 after more than a century of continuous operation, but remain in good condition and are now being prepared for reopening.
Seagram became part of Pernod Ricard in 2001, and the new owners cut production at BenRiach to three months a year, before mothballing the distillery in 2002.
Finally, in 2004, Pernod sold the BenRiach distillery to an independent consortium led by Billy Walker, a former director of Burn Stewart. Production recommenced almost immediately and the lacklustre 10yo was discontinued and replaced by what has become one of the most exciting and dynamic ranges in the industry. Led by a feisty 12 year-old and a critically acclaimed 16 yo, BenRiach's new owners have continued to exploit the superb spirit created by this previously unsung distillery, with a string of aged or limited releases of remarkably vibrant single malts.
Crucially, the new owners have been able to take advantage of the peated spirit made at the distillery in the previous 25 years - at a time when peaty malts have become hugely popular. In just five years, BenRiach has gone from a forgotten footnote, one of many neglected distilleries in the portfolios of big companies, to one of the most exciting single malts around. This was capped by the distillery winning the accolade of Distillery of the Year from Malt Advocate magazine in 2007.
Such has been the spectacular trajectory of BenRiach that parent company Intra Trading has recently bought another well-respected distillery fallen on hard times - Glendronach. All single malt fans will be wishing them well in their efforts to pull off a similar revival there - and after the remarkable success accomplished with BenRiach, few would bet against them.
The BenRiach CURIOSITAS uses a heavily peated malted barley as the cereal varietal to produce a unique, fresh, peated expression. This rare peated single malt, from the Heartland of Speyside, has wonderful overtones of PEAT reek, combined cleverly with a background of FRUITY, FLORAL, heathery notes and an appealing presence of OAK WOOD in the finish.
Traditionalists believe that peated malts achieve optimum balance of peat-bittersweet and oak infusion after 10 YEARS of maturation. In fact, peated BenRiach is a return to the ORIGINAL Speyside character and flavour of malts typical of the nineteenth century. Curiositas is a DISTINCTIVE and welcome addition to the Speyside scene â€“ this is a dram to be savoured with a dash of water.