Category Archives: Benrinnes

Advent Day 11: Stronachie 18 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 11 – December 11th003

Stronachie 18 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

46% abv

Score:  87.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

You may recall, if you’ve been following along with this somewhat furious post-a-day pace throughout December, that just about a week ago we tried the new Stronachie 10 year old.  I shared a few words on how Stronachie was actually Benrinnes malt bottled and sold under the A.D. Rattray brand.  If you cannae recall that post, and want a little more info, it’s right here for your reading pleasure.

Having already covered the ins and outs behind the Stronachie name, perhaps we’ll keep this one short and sweet and simply dive right in.

The malt behind door number 11 of the advent calendar is the 18 year variant.  And while I did like the 10, this is in a different league altogether.  Much more emphasis on the jammy fruits and softly spiced subtleties.  Any of the youthful spirit notes from the younger version have fallen by the wayside and left a malt that is a showcase for vibrancy at a much more mature station along the road.

Is it great whisky?  No.  Not quite.  Is it good?  Absolutely.  And if I recall correctly, this one seems to fall into a nice price bracket as well.  Good stuff.  Solid malt and a great opportunity to test drive a distillery that we don’t often see bottled as single malt ’round here.

Nose:  Florals and pepper right off the bat.  Like opening a wax-sealed jar of homemade jam.  A touch of white and milk chocolate.  Cranberry.  A touch of pepper.  Very typically Speyside, if I were to be a believer in the concept of regionality.

Palate:  A lot of wood.  A touch of tobacco.  Crunchy apple and pear.  Sweet and syrupy berry coulis or jam.  Even some banana and almond slivers.

Thoughts:  This is a whisky that is miles better than I remember from a few years back.  Technically flawless, just not a lot to get excited about, other than good simple malt whisky.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

Advent Day 5: Stronachie 10 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 5 – December 5th128

Stronachie 10 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

Distilled at Benrinnes

43% abv

Score:  80.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Stronachie…Benrinnes.  Tomato…tomahto.  Let’s call the whole thing off.

Or wait.  Let’s not.  Let’s drink some whisky.

If you’re doing some checking into the Stronachie distillery you’re most likely apt to hit dead end after dead end.  The distillery simply doesn’t exist.  Anymore, that is.  The original Stronachie distillery was shuttered in 1928.  In a very telling quote from the A.D. Rattray website (attributable to…who knows?): “The obliteration is total.  Only the name remains.”

So how is it then – warm at home at Christmas time 2014 – are we Advent-Calendar-following souses drinking Stronachie 10 year old for Day 5 of December?  ‘Cause Tim Morrison and the team at A.D. Rattray decided a few years back to replicate the style of the original distillate (through some reverse engineering of a rare old bottle of the original Stronachie from 1904…very similar to the recreation of MacKinlay’s Shackleton whisky) and relaunch the brand name under their own auspices.  After they had determined the flavour profile of that old turn-of-the-century malt, they scoured existing distilleries to find the whisky with a profile that most closely aligned with that 1904 control bottle.  Said malt turned out to be Benrinnes.

In short, Stronachie is Benrinnes bottled under a different name.

So there’s the history (albeit very condensed).  Let’s try the whisky now.  A rather tasty young bottle that is readily available under the A.D.R. banner in fairly broad markets.

Nose:  A surprising amount of citrus.  Sharp and rather young, but all pleasant notes.  A touch of dried apricot.  Very clean oak and a little bit of furniture polish.  There’s a slight off note here, but so minor as to be negligable.

Palate:  Oh, wow.  Love the arrival here.  Immediate lemon notes.  Kind of bitters after a moment or two though and moves into nuttier notes.  Almost Jura-esque, actually.  Getting a sort of wine-like influence too.  Some pith.  Malty, to be sure.

Thoughts:  Surprisingly complex for a 10 y.o., though not entirely my thing.  Has some personality though and seems to be a better drink than I recall the old 12 year version being.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

A.D. Rattray Benrinnes 13 y.o. Review

A.D. Rattray Benrinnes 13 y.o.010

56.8% abv

Score:  70/100


First Benrinnes review for the site.  It’s always fun to cover a new one, as there aren’t a lot of Scotland’s fine distilleries we haven’t shared a few words on at this point.  Benrinnes is a Diageo distillery in the heart of the Speyside region, responsible for the production of a couple million litres of spirit per annum, most of which makes its way into blends such as J&B and Johnnie Walker.

Y’never really know whether or not the decision to blend away most of a distillery’s production is due to the spirit having a decided lack of personality or simply because they have gross needs and some distillery or other needs to take the bullet.  Having now tried some special casks from most of Diageo’s lesser known holdings, I can say with some assurance that there are definitely some solid malts being relegated to obscurity on the vatting floor.  Sad, but true.  Until the wider world develops the palate and appreciate (and income bracket) for single malts, this will continue to be the case.

Unfortunately though…this particular Benrinnes is not one of those solid malts.  In fact, aside from the presentation aspect of this one (strong and naked), there isn’t much to like here.

This is a hard lesson learned in ‘try-before-you-buy’.  Independent bottlings are always a gamble.  The simple fact of the matter is you always have to be prepared that you may have a hefty outlay of cash in return for a mouthful of ‘not awesome’.  Unfortunately there isn’t always an open bottle available for sampling and informed decision making.  When curiosity gets the better of you, sometimes you simply have to take a flyer.

On a positive note…I find there are waaaaaaay more good ADR releases than bad.  I imagine the warehouses are fairly teeming with great barrels.  In the name of research I vow to keep trying ’em.

This, though…this is not a nice whisky.  Great bottle to try, not a great bottle to buy.

Nose:  Sulphur.  Toffee.  Prune.  Raisin.  Citrus zest and tart red berry.  Tomato.  Pepper and cinnamon.  Caramel apples.  Sweaty leathers.  Walnut.  Wine-heavy (not far off some of the more aggressive Jura releases.

Palate:  Cinnamon, oak and perfume.  Mint.  Ash and sulphur.  Tangy and rather rich in deep chewy dried fruits.  There’s a pleasant mid-note before it bitters out into tannins and tea leaves.  Some cereal hidden at the very back as well.  Finally…apple and plum skins on the finish (contributing to that tart, tannic feel)

Thoughts:  There’s honestly not a lot of ‘pleasant’ going on here.  Let’s find something nice to say.  Ummmmm…gorgeous colour and texture?  Yep.  That’s about it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt