There are a few whisky profiles that really work for me: older bourbon-matured malts that bloom into bold tropical notes; young peat that explodes like pine knots in a bonfire; syrupy, almost overcooked sherry bombs in their third and fourth decades; and malts like this 18 year old Albariza, which marry the gooeyness of rich jammy fruits with the complex subtleties of mature peat.
Put simply, BenRiach absolutely nailed it with the Albariza. This is one of the sexiest and steamiest marriages of sweet and peat I’ve met so far. These two alpha whisky styles can either be uncompromising sparring partners or intimate bedfellows. Fortunately in this case it is the latter. The peat profile is not quite Islay, in terms of style and make-up, but when rubbing up and down against the rich trappings of sweet PX sherry it manages to emerge in a new guise not dissimilar to Bowmore’s current king-o’-the-hill, Laimrig.
‘Albariza’, for those interested in linguistic marketing origins, is the name of the white soil used for the cultivation of grapes in Andalucía. A gimmicky name, of course, but so be it, so long as the distillery keeps putting those age statements front and center on the bottles. It’s when we see the latter disappear in favour of the former that we start to worry. Moot point here. As I said…BenRiach really aced this one. Great malt from one of the most consistently excellent distilleries around.
Nose: Smoked fruit. A ‘gooey’, jammy nose. Damp, peaty notes. Somewhat farmy, with notes of iodine, pepper and chilis. Wet leather. Raspberry and blackberry. Dried figs and prunes. Quite ashy.
Palate: Head-on collision of jammy fruits and ash. Plums and berry compote. Threads of smoke and medicinal notes. Mincemeat. Very rich. Damp wood. Maybe moist tobacco. Not too, too far off an Islay malt, surprisingly.
Thoughts: This is like a mainland version of Bowmore Laimrig. Of course that means I love it.
– Images & Words: Curt
This is a nice, and I think probably a pretty useful, review. I’ll keep an eye out for this one and, although I’d still like to see age statements on Heart of Speyside and Birnie Moss, I like the overall direction of BenRiach. It is funny, though, looking at the label of Birnie Moss, to see Non Chill Filtered and Natural Colour trumped as important selling points in the absence of or, importantly, in the place of, cask time. The only thing funnier is to read how some people say “it’s all about the casks”, as if cask influence was instantaneous and duration didn’t matter.