Dram Initiative #002 – BenRiach w/ J Wheelock

The Dram Initiative Meeting #002 – May 28, 2013Logo (2)

BenRiach Range Tasting w/ J Wheelock


Sincere apologies to my companions in the club for my delinquency in getting this posted in a timely manner.  I owe you better than that. 

So…let’s share a few words with the world as to just what we’ve got going on of late in the world of the DI.

A little bit of elbow grease…a lot of passion.  That’s the way most great things in life come to fruition, isn’t it?  The Dram Initiative is no different.  The initial ideas?  No problem.  That part came together rather easily.  The logistics?  Well…that’s the stuff we’re still working through.  It’s amazing how well we’re ironing out any bumps and salving the teething pains.  And I have to be forthright here.  Our members (all 24 right now) have stepped up and supported this project in spades.  From showing up early for set-up…to lingering for tear-down.  From timely event payments…to enthusiastic participation.  From sober insight…to…ummm…less than sober comeraderie.  This is people coming together to make something cool.  We respect that and appreciate it.

From myself and the committee to all members…I thank ya.  We’ve come out of the gates strong, and I can promise you…there is much, much more coming. 

At some point in the future, for the benefit of anyone outside our jurisdiction, but with similar designs, I will put up a feature piece on setting up a whisky club.  It will be an opportunity to share a bit on what we’ve done…how we’ve succeeded…where we’ve struggled…etc.  For any that are curious…hopefully we can help.

Anyway…let’s talk about this night. 



In the early days of the DI, as the committee was working through plans and such, one of the first distilleries we most wanted to cover/present was BenRiach.  This is a distillery that has been raising its profile (and stocks!) confidently and classily over the past couple of years.  I’ve said it before…their young whiskies are good.  Their old whiskies are great.


It just so happens that a good mate of mine, Mr. J Wheelock, made a shift a wee while back from one company to another.  Personally, I think it was a trade-up.  He now works for Authentic Wine and Spirits here in Calgary.  Just a part of his portfolio is based around that brown spirit we know and love so well, Scotch whisky.  Among the brands he represents now – Jura, GlenDronach, W&M, Dalmore, Compass Box – is the one we just spoke of: BenRiach.  A personal favorite.


When I approached J about coming out to speak to the club about about a few of his high end malts and personal hijinks, he immediately stepped up to the plate.  The truth of the matter though is that stepping up to the plate is only half of it.  The other half is knocking it out of the park.  Fortunately, my bias and affinity for my friend wasn’t the only factor confirming that that is exactly what happened.  The members’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  No surprise there.  The man is damn good at what he does.  He knows his stuff…has passion…and it shows.


The evening was full of great history and detail on BenRiach, shared knowledge and much back-and-forth on the drams we were tasting and some well-chosen anecdotes and tales from J’s years in the inner circles of the industry.  He had the crowd warm and laughing frequently. 

Between a great flight of malts…good atmosphere…great presentation…and a sense of accomplishment, the committee members were well pleased with the way the night went down.  The smiles on members faces spoke volumes as to their concensus.  If we walked out of the first gathering feeling elated, I think we were positively soaring after this one.  All the peices seemed to come together nicely.  Membership keeps growing, the whiskies are top notch, the company is excellent and the sky is the limit

On to the malts…

This eve was built, not around the core range from BenRiach, but on a bunch of sassy mature single cask releases from the distillery.  All available in the Alberta market either currently or in the none-too-distant past.  I Know the first few, at least, are still out there and available for good prices.  Scoop ’em from their respective stores (listed below in the malt details) before you no longer can.

The first four we tackled as a ‘battle of the casks’, much as we did in the DI #001 meeting for Tullibardine.  After we’d slurped our way through the first four drams of the eve, we took a moment or two to weigh in on the best of the bunch.  I’ll save the grand reveal, and Maltmonster’s tasting notes for the next feature piece here on ATW, which I will try to get posted either later this eve or tomorrow.  Suffice to say…this is a good bit of fun and gets everyone interacting. 

The next four malts of the eve were extremely varied.  Old and sweet, middling and peaty, port and madeira influenced, etc.  I love this sort of range.  It shows the inherent quality of the spirit, but also its flexibility and malleability.  Probably most importantly though…it shows us that the distillery is not resting on laurels.  They’re experimenting…innovating…making it exciting to be a whisky drinker.


Specs on the evening’s libations:

Authentic Wine & Spirits     1986 – August 2012     Cask #5458

Bourbon Barrel     50.5% abv     Single Cask Release Bottled For Authentic Wine & Spirits, Alberta


Co-op     1985 – September 2012     Cask #531

Bourbon Barrel     49.9% abv     Single Cask Release Bottled For Co-op Wine & Spirits, Alberta


CSN     1984 – August 2012     Cask #1114  

Hogshead     56.1% abv     Single Cask Release Bottled For CSN Wine & Spirits, Calgary, Alberta


KWM    1983 – September 2012     Cask #298

Hogshead     44.2% abv     Single Cask Release Bottled For Kensington Wine Market, Calgary, Alberta


KWM     1994 – September 2009     Cask #4810

Madeira Finish Hogshead     57.1% abv     Single Cask Release Bottled For Kensington Wine Market, Calgary, Alberta


1977 – July 2010     Cask #1033

Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish Hogshead     52.2% abv     2010 Annual Limited Release Batch 7


1975 – August 2007     Cask #4451

Lightly Peated Port Pipe     53.7% abv     2007 Annual Limited Release Batch 4


1984 – July 2010     Cask #4052

Tawny Port Finish Peated Hogshead     51.7% abv     2010 Annual Limited Release Batch 7



Though many of the gang in attendance this eve may have been a little naive to just what this distillery is capable of when they walked in…they certainly weren’t when they walked out.  The opportunity to try a range like this is quite possibly a once in a lifetime for some.  Fortunately, for those in the club, we like smashing limitations like that. 

A great evening full of big laughs, good friends and great drinks.

Many thanks to all who helped us put this together (you know who you are), but most importantly…thanks to J Wheelock.  Look forward to having you back to share some insight into Jura.  And ‘Dronach.  And Compass Box.  And…

To any out there interested in joining The Dram Initiative.  Drop a line.  You know where to find us.  Membership is limited though.  When we reach our upper limit, it will be a waitlist scenario.



– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

2 thoughts on “Dram Initiative #002 – BenRiach w/ J Wheelock

  1. Maestro

    Glad to hear that BenRiach puts on a good show with its obscure casks. I’ve been rooting for this distillery for a while.

    On that note, have you tried much of their flagship core range? I bought a tasting pack of that back in London a month ago, and I was rather underwhelmed for the most part. Their 12 and 16 were quite subpar, though their Heart of Speyside was decent for what it was. The 20yo was excellent, but that’s 20 years… you’d think they’d be able to do something better at 16 years.

    All that said, the 10 yr curiositas is a home run, and I’ve heard great things about the 15 dark rum finish. Perhaps their best work is in finishing…

    1. ATW Post author

      I quite like the 12. Nice fruity one for a rather young malt. Yes…Curiositas is good. I’ve also enjoyed the Authenticus (older edition) and Solstice 15. Will have some younger BenRiach notes up in coming days. Try to get to ’em sooner than later for ya! 😉


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