Friday, January 17, 2014

Whisky Review: BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus

As I mentioned in my review of BenRiach Curiositas, the distillery had a significant stock of aging peated malt whisky when it was taken over by Billy Walker. One of the strategies they have taken to utilize this stock is cask finishing - transferring the spirit from ex-bourbon barrels to other more esoteric casks for some period of time to add another layer of flavor.

This particular whisky is finished in Jamaican rum barrels. This is an interesting pick, as Jamaican rum usually has a very high ester content, which gives it a very unique 'dunder funk'. I've always felt that Jamaican rum was the peated whisky of the rum world, so it's interesting to see these two strongly flavored spirits brought together.

As with the rest of the line, this whisky is bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration.

BenRiach Aromaticus Fumosus

Nose: lots of sweet malt wrapped in vegetal peat and grass, rummy notes - especially esters, nutmeg, and banana, very light oak, a bit salty. After adding a few drops of water, the rum tucks inside the malt whisky notes of rubbery/vegetal peat and malt, starting dry but becoming sweeter over time.

Taste: sweet rum and malt up front, quickly giving way to vegetal peat, rum esters, and pepper, slowly fading back towards bittersweet malt and oak. After dilution, the rum shows up primarily as molasses and chocolate sweetness, without the aggressive esters of the neat palate, while the peat becomes significantly more subdued.

Finish: peat reek, barrel char, fried bananas, molasses, rum esters, bitter oak, salty malt.

If you've never tried Jamaican rum before, this is going to seem like a very odd whisky. While the rum casks do add a certain amount of sweetness, it's largely balanced by the dunder funk esters, which meld with the peat in a unique fashion. If Jamaican rum is new to you, I would highly suggest trying some Appleton V/X or, even better, Smith & Cross. Both of those rums will give you a sense of the drier, high-ester style of rum, in comparison to the sweeter molasses-driven rums that one encounters more frequently.

On the plus side, this is a cask finish that hasn't erased the essential qualities of the whisky. While the rum is very present, there is still a lot of malt and peat, so it remains firmly rooted in the malt whisky world. I've grown more and more dubious about cask finishes, but this one hits the ball out of the park. The whisky and rum fit together so well - though I suspect the extra couple of years in casks helped since the peat is a bit tamer than the 10 year old Curiositas, which gives the rum a bit more room to shine. I'm curious to try the unpeated BenRiach rum finish to see how well it holds up - however, the peat seemed like a really great compliment to the rum's esters, so I'm not sure a cleaner canvas will work properly.

Either way, I would highly suggest picking this one up if a) you enjoy heavily peated whiskies and b) you can still find it. Shouldn't be difficult if you live in the UK, but it might be trickier on this side of the Atlantic. But it looks like Toast Wines still has it in stock for a pretty reasonable $53 and will ship to most states.


  1. I had samples of the Arumaticus and Heredotus - I liked the Heredotus better and proceeded to get a bottle. But you're a bigger fan of rum than I am (especially when it comes to that Jamaican funk!)... Here were my notes:

    Heredotus: This is a sherried peated whisky that works. The sherry is certainly present but does not overpower or mask the peat and the other flavors. It is sweet, but not sherry-sweet. Absolutely worth trying a bottle.

    Arumaticus: The influence of the rum casks is not that evident. The whisky is sweet, and here it does not work that well. Subtle notes of coconut and other Caribbean aromatics.

    1. It took a little while for the funk to come out - when I first opened the bottle it was more similar to your notes. The rum mostly added a thick layer of sweetness. But that's settled down a bit and it's much more interesting now.

      I also have the other three younger peated cask finishes, so I'm really looking forward to comparing them all.