BenRiach Curiositas Review

BenRiach Curiositas204

46% abv

Score:  79/100


Pretty sure this will be no less than my third go at reviewing this expression. I’ve literally seen a ten point swing in the scores I’ve levied at this one over the past six or seven years. Some of that can be laid at the feet of batch variance, no doubt, but some of it has to come back to the fact that I simply can’t wrap my head around this whisky. A circle I can’t square, if you will.

Curiositas is another peated Speyside malt from BenRiach.  This time served up at a young and rambunctious decade of maturity.  I’ve said many times before that peated Islay malts work well in youth, but it seems to be somewhat up-in-the-air as to whether or not mainland whiskies can carry off the toddler chic that the big guns from the Hebrides do so well.

I’ve invested in three or four bottles of Curiositas over the years, driven back time and again to suss out whether or not I’ll appreciate the malt more with the passage of time.  Occasionally I’ll come ‘round a little to it and think ‘hmmm…not so bad’, but the next time I pour it I shut right down and lean towards something else, much as I do with the Ardmore Traditional Cask (now relegated to history, in favour of yet another NAS fleecing).  I think this much time and effort (and money!) invested in Curiositas will finally afford me the will to simply state that this one is not for me.  I’m finding too many off notes and an overall lack of charm and cohesion.  We’ll stick with others in the BenRiach family, as they have incredible volumes of great whisky and generally at really good prices too.

Nose:  A decent amount of smoke.  Some farmy, grainy barnyard notes.  Iodine.  Tar and rubber (grows stronger as it opens).  Musty and dusty. Grape juice.  Leather, old wood and dunnage warehouses.  Might be a hint of sunflower seeds.  Not a lot of fruit to speak of.  …And just a touch feinty, I find.

Palate:  Quite aggressive.  Big, bold youthful peat.  Smoke.  A little nutty (wal-nut?)…a little bitter.  Licorice.  Rubber.  There are some sweet notes, but not sure I’d suggest they were ‘fruity’ sweet.

Thoughts:  Meh.  Just ok.  A decent alternative, I suppose, but if you’re looking for quality peat, maybe go Islay instead.  Or spend a little more and reach for one of the older peated BenRiachs.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

42 thoughts on “BenRiach Curiositas Review

  1. Chris 1

    I had one of these about four years ago and loved it. Just the right mix of sweet and peat and refreshingly different from the Hebrideans. I wish I had gone back and bought a couple more because the one I bought about a month ago bears little resemblance to that one. Too bad because all the other ducks are in a row: NCF, natural colour, 46% ABV, age statement, affordable. Oh well, we start another search for the perfect 10-12 yr. old.

    I’m thinking I might try to tune this one up with a few drops of the BenRiach 12 yr. old sherry matured version. Worth a try.

    Otherwise, I’m with you, Curt. Unless I see some rave reviews of this one in the future, this will be my last bottle.

    1. ATW Post author

      That very much aligns with what I’m saying here in terms of score fluctuation.

      But don’t get me wrong…I love BenRiach.

      1. Chris 1

        I tried the addition of a few drops of 12 sherry matured and it did take a bit of the youthful edge off the arrival. While I was messing around playing master blender I put a few generous drops of Finlaggan Cask Strength (rumoured to be young Lagavulin) in my next dram and that really supercharged the finish. Actually, after the bottle having sat around for about a month about three quarters full, it seemed to have improved quite a bit straight up. Taste buds on any given day? Unpredictable. I, too am still a BenRiach fan.

  2. skeptic

    My friend has a bottle of this expression which is listed as 40% ABV. Found during a house cleaning before selling. Does anyone know when it could be from? And is it any good?

  3. Jeff

    I did like this one a lot more than you did, but a lot of the criticism would fit for me for Ledaig 10, which a lot of people also seem divided about: a big blast of peat, but the non-peat notes aren’t that well done. I do find the Ledaig far more variable, bottle to bottle and even day to day, than the Ben Riach, but I’ve only tried the latter at 46%. I think it’s possible that Skeptic’s bottle dates from before the 2004 acquisition/reboot.

      1. Jeff

        Sadly, they are, as they always have been, separate pieces of information, but at least the bottle wasn’t NAS, because then it wouldn’t have an age statement or a bottling date. It was just a guess based on the difference in ABV.

        1. David

          The question is, when is this bottle from? And more important, was it good at the time? Or should it be regifted?

          1. Jeff

            If that’s indeed “the question”, which I tried to help answer, what does the obvious fact that an age statement is not a bottling date have to do with it, because it wasn’t I who raised the issue of age statements?

          2. Athena

            I think the bottling date would help to determine how old the actual bottle is, which may help us to know whether it was bottled at a time when the juice was good or bad.

          3. Jeff

            You think the bottling date (which no one has) would tell you when the whisky was bottled? Amazing! It still has nothing to do with age statements. They are two different pieces of information, both worth having, but not having one doesn’t make the other meaningless.

          4. David

            This bottle is much older than 2011. The person who found it was cleaning out his father’s home. He died a few years ago, and had dementia for many years before so likely this bottle was bought a long time ao…

          5. Jeff

            I didn’t say it was from 2011, but 40% ABVs on bottles of that type are not necessarily any older than 2011, so what can be told from the ABV alone is very limited (although between 2004 and 2009 ABVs were 46% so, as I said, think it’s possible that Skeptic’s bottle dates from before the 2004 acquisition/reboot) – and the type and ABV were the only pieces of information that were initially given. The review is just the only one of a Curiositas on the MMMM I could find at 40%. Don’t like the info/reviews, etc. I’ve provided (which is the only information provided by anyone so far)? I took it as far as I could with what was initially revealed. Good luck to all involved – I’m sure you’ll get much further once everyone is certain about the differences between bottling dates and age statements.

          6. skeptic

            I don’t think there is any confusion about the difference between age of spirit and bottling date. The only one who doesn’t seem to understand the importance of bottling date is you.

            There are a number of batch variable whiskies out there that do not provide batch numbers. Knowing when they were bottled gives one an idea of the quality of the contents, more so perhaps that an age statement, because the various batches have been reviewed or personally tasted.

            A great example is Ralfy’s head to head of 2 JW Reds.

            Ardbeg 10 (there you have an age statement) is considered by some to have contained older more mature spirits when it was first released than it does today. Knowing this, if I had a choice between an older Ardbeg 10 from the first 2-3 years of reopening vs one bottled last month, I know which one I would choose.

            now some bottles have very difficult to read and interpret etched codes. Others, like modern Bladnoch, do not.

            As someone who is all for more information, I would be very surprised if you had an objection to listing of bottling dates.

          7. Jeff

            Well then don’t be surprised. I’m not against listing bottling dates – when did I say I was? As I said, they are two different pieces of information, both worth having, but not having one doesn’t make the other meaningless, and if you don’t have a bottling date, then you just don’t have one (which is why you don’t know when the BenRiach is from, right? – hence you have to work from other information where possible). Thanks for your little lesson on batch histories, but I never needed it. But not having a bottling date is some argument against having an age statement, because an age statement isn’t a bottling date, as per your original non sequitur? FYI, it doesn’t tell you ABV either. Give me a break.

          8. Athena


            I don’t think that was a fair comment.

            If I were Skeptic I would probably throw the non-sequitur comment back to you, because the ABV is not the issue, it is one piece of information that is always on the label.

            If I had that bottle I’d probably just give it to a Benriach fan and be done with it.

          9. Jeff


            It was entirely fair. ABV is obviously not the issue, but it has as little to do with bottling dates as age statements do, which was exactly the point of the comment, something you should have picked up on.

            “So it has an age statement, but sadly not a bottling date”

            Is the exact logical equivalent of

            “So it has an ABV, but sadly not a bottling date” or “So it has an age statement, but sadly that doesn’t tell me the ABV” – as if the one piece of information had any connection to the other.

            As per Curt’s earlier comment about willful ignorance, some arguments being offered here are moving from non-intellectual to anti-intellectual, and three people taking turns making mutually supporting comments doesn’t change that. I don’t care who comes to whose defense if they have no defense to offer; it’s irrelevant.

          10. David


            So it’s you who missed the point. Skeptic (correct me if Im wrong buddy) meant to say “so it has an age statement” meaning it meets the criteria for acceptability by you, but “no bottling date” meaning “so we can’t tell when it was from to try to get clues as to what the contents are inside.

            Yes, 2 different ideas in one sentence. If you can’t handle that….

      2. Jeff

        Not just “acceptable” by me, David, but also “acceptable” to yourselves as well, as the two of you are supposedly also boycotting only NAS and I don’t see anyone proposing boycotting bottles that don’t have bottling dates. That being the case, Skeptic’s non sequitur really makes no point about my position, his own, yours or the obvious fact that age statements aren’t bottling dates (and congratulations to everyone who has figured this out and that age statements don’t tell you everything, or are in that process); it’s a distinction without a difference – again, willful ignorance, and if I’m not impressed by three people propping up each other’s silliness, it’s unlikely I’ll be impressed by two. It’s not personal; I’m just not impressed by silliness, regardless of its author(s). I’m sure you’re nice fellas, it’s just that you mistake the strength of numbers for the strength of ideas and I don’t.

        All product information is worth having, and I don’t know of anyone who is against having more, but bottling dates have never been as widespread, or are now in as rapid decline, as age statements, so that isn’t where the main attack against consumer product information is being made – but I’m not in favour of a decline in product information on ANY front. That said, if you’re planning to “lead” a boycott against products without bottling dates, I’ll be more than happy to play your current role regarding the boycott of NAS: pay lip service to the idea, tell you what you’re doing wrong and what “the rules” are for leaders, and then continually carp from the sidelines: “but bottling dates aren’t age statements/ABVs/chill filtration information/colouring information, etc., etc. etc…..”, all while withholding my own support of your efforts wherever I just don’t feel so personally inclined (“yeah, but there are some great expressions that don’t have bottling dates… I’ll bet Amrut/Ardbeg/whoever has some great stuff coming out that I don’t want to miss, so I’ll give them, and myself, a ‘pass’ on this issue as it strikes my fancy”). When does “your” boycott begin? I’m all ready to go!

        As for health, wealth and happiness, sure, by all means – but, quite frankly, whisky commentary in general has reached the overall sorry state it’s in by mistaking respecting other people’s right to an opinion with respect of that opinion itself, regardless of how nonsensical it is (it’s how we ended up with the 1824 Series based on colour (?!?) and the idea that age only matters to some whiskies depending upon their labels). Importantly, like the decline of product information, the situation isn’t going to be corrected by continuing in that direction. If people, both in the industry and out, don’t want their nonsense challenged, they should stop spouting nonsense.

        1. skeptic

          Talk about tunnel vision….. and just after Curt asked you to play nice…

          The “age statement” comment was an acknowledgement of your position. The other comment was a lament that without the bottling date it would be more difficult to determine when that particular bottle was originally on the market.

          I would like to apologize if I brought up something not entirely within your personal rant blast zone. I thought this site was for all of us. Perhaps I was wrong.

          1. Jeff

            I tried to play nice the first couple of times, but people just don’t understand (or pretend to, again, willful ignorance) that age statements don’t purport to be bottling dates or to tell you everything about whisky. Your comment wasn’t in any way “an acknowledgement” of “my” position; it was a criticism of it without your dealing with the facts that the criticism itself is baseless or, incredibly, that your (official) position on age statements doesn’t differ from my own. The real situation is just your intentionally talking nonsense and then playing victim when it’s challenged – no more, no less. It’s a familiar pattern.

    1. ATW Post author

      I’ll be cracking a Ledaig 10 in the coming days. Review sometime following after I’ve spent adequate time with it. I do recall not being overly into it on any of the previous times I’ve tried. More to come.

      1. ATW Post author

        Peter is dead right. Confirmed with resident genius and local ‘Riach Brand Ambassador Extraordinaire, J Wheelock. Will be amended this eve to fix my ignorance and reliance on (obviously fabricated) old memories of this one.

        Good catch, Peter. Thanks, mate.

  4. Collegiate

    This was one of my first scotches. Initially I loved it. It provided a different kind of unique peat profile to the Islays. Then I set it aside for a few months. When I came back to it, I found it to be a much different dram, and not in a good way. This is probably the only bottle I have had where my initial reaction was dramatically different from my later one.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on the Ledaig.

  5. ATW Post author

    Truly interesting to read all of the perspectives on this one. Seems I’m definitely not alone in having trouble coming to grips here.

    1. Peter Benkoczki

      I had only on bottle of it, but i liked it from start to finish. Still got one hiding somewhere, this was on of the first malts i’ve met, so…it’s a bit nostalgic for me.

  6. ATW Post author

    Alright, all. Play nice. Don’t make me get between y’all. Let’s all raise a glass to the health, wealth and happiness of one another. What say?

  7. Robert

    Wow! This hate on NAS is getting as nasty and narrow-minded as political commentary on Fox! As a political and whisk(e)y moderate, I find both a bit scary and polarizing. Can’t we all just get along!

    1. Jeff

      We could, and it’s desirable, but this continuing game of playing dumb and then playing victim when called on it is largely getting in the way. Everyone can fall back to the position “hey, it’s just whisky” (and, sure, it is), but that won’t address this issue.

      1. Chris 1

        Yikes! I’m almost afraid to stick a toe back into this discussion. I’ve read through this thread several times and I can’t figure out why and where some nice, civil, dinner table conversation degenerated into a full on food fight.

        I think we are all bright enough to understand the difference between an age statement and a bottling date and the significance of each. As I understand it, the point being made by David and Skeptic, who both obviously know the difference between age statements and bottling dates, is that knowing both the age of the whisky and the date it was bottled tells you which ten year period the bottle comes from. That period could be one when the whisky was good, bad or average. Skeptic’s Ardbeg 10 example clearly makes that point.

        Your input to these discussions is always interesting and thought provoking, Jeff, but on this one I seem to have missed the “issue.” It appears to me that we are all , more or less, on the same page here.

        1. Jeff

          I guess “the issue” is that I don’t know what having or not having a bottling date has to do with having or not having an age statement, as per Skeptic’s original non sequitur – again, that the two aren’t synonymous or that an age statement doesn’t tell you everything about a whisky (who ever claimed otherwise anyway and, if there’s no link between the two, then why mention age statements vs. ABV or any other unrelated piece of information except to play dumb and then run for cover when the wheels fall off)? If we were indeed all on the same page about those two simple facts, there wouldn’t have been a problem, but there wouldn’t have been a non sequitur either – but thanks for the question if what I was saying needed clarification.

          Turning to sports, if more people would tell the truth about the Leafs, they would smarten up too but, like the whisky industry, it’s mostly a case of garbage in, garbage out and everything’s fabulous because we need revenue, pass the golf clubs. Cheers to all!

          1. skeptic

            I think I see the problem. It’s this paranoia that every comment I make is an attack on you. The issue around bottling date was specifically in regard to figuring out about that particular bottle, though I can see where it would be useful in other cases. The statement was neither in favour nor against any boycott, not a barb at any person.

            And with respect to the Leafs, if they were whisky they could be NAS without any problem. Because they are clearly consistent… Almost 50 years consistent.

            But who cares? If anything, I’m a Habs fan.

          2. Chris 1

            The Flames and the Habs are both in with a good chance to go the distance. I think the Flames have a nice underdog cover that might get them underestimated. As for the Habs, the refs pretty much handed them a berth in the second round. The Sens got jobbed by the usual crap officiating in the NHL and Subhan should have been suspended for that slash. What they mostly have going for them is Cary Price between the pipes.

            this has nothing to do with whisky, but if you’re male and Canadian you’re talking hockey at this time of year. At least most of us are. It’s in the genes.

    1. Chris 1

      Oh, them. I guess I have to root for them now that they have somewhat unceremoniously dispatched the Canucks to the putting greens. I really do hope that they will lay the same kind of thrashing on Ryan Kesler and the rest of the Anaheim poultry. I’ll have a dram (something other than BenRiach Curiositas) to spur them on tonight.

        1. Chris 1

          Hey Curt. The Red Mile has been conspicuously uncontaminated by celebrants recently. Somebody must have pissed on the Flames; they’re looking more like dying embers lately. Having something other than the BenRiach didn’t work, so I’ll go with something that has a bit of wet campfire on the nose to help them tonight. Laphroaig 10 perhaps. They need to win both home games or the Flames are extinguished. Cheers.


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