Taste Test: Benriach’s New 16-Year-Old Single Malt Is Aged to Perfection

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There are some choice whiskies out there aged for three or four decades that command exorbitant prices, and a whole lot more that have spent just 10 to 12 years inside a barrel and cost less than 50 bucks. Both categories have their pluses and minuses, but there’s a middle ground of maturation that seems to always hit the sweet spot—usually somewhere between 15 and 20 years. And the brand-new Benriach The Sixteen falls right in that timeframe.

This whisky is not new to the distillery’s range, but it was discontinued in 2016. Presumably, the liquid was needed for the 10, 12 and 21-year-old expressions that represent entry and luxury level tiers in the portfolio as it started to grow. Benriach is a Speyside distillery that has been getting much more attention since it was acquired by Brown-Forman, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s, in the same year that The Sixteen was retired (surely no coincidence). The distillery was founded in 1898, but has changed hands many times over the years. There were long periods where no whisky was being produced there, or just in very limited amounts—from 1900 to 1965 Benriach functioned mainly as malting house, and distilling was halted again in the early 2000s for a few years. Despite all this, single malt whisky was being made at Benriach when it could be, and in a larger variety of styles than at most distilleries—peated, unpeated, double and triple distilled, and matured in virtually every type of cask imaginable.

After a seven-year absence, The Sixteen is a welcome return to the distillery’s redesigned and revamped core range. Master blender Rachel Barrie came up with the cask makeup for the whisky, a combination of bourbon, sherry, and virgin oak barrels. “Our signature Speyside style blossoms at ten years old, finding depth and richer layers of orchard fruit character as it turns 16,” she said in a statement. I have to agree with that—honey, heather and some violet greet you on the nose as you first introduce yourself to the whisky. That honey note continues on the palate, along with maple, vanilla, some ginger, and toasted almond. On the finish, there is a bit of oak and tannin, leather, baking spice, and a splash of menthol. Overall, it’s a lovely dram of whisky.

The Sixteen is bottled at 43 percent ABV, and perhaps it would be nice to try it at the 46 percent at which many of the other expressions are bottled. No matter, this is a fantastic single malt that sits in that sweet maturation pocket, balancing the younger, crisp, citrus notes of a younger whisky with the introduction of more oak and tropical fruit influence. I’m not going to stop sipping decadent whiskies aged for a quarter century anytime soon, but this sweet 16 is a great Goldilocks option in the whisky world.

Buy Now: $77

Score: 91

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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