Friday, November 13, 2015

Whisky Review: Benriach Septendecim

Septendecim (a somewhat uncreative choice as it means 17 in Latin) was first released in 2012 and hit the American market last year. It rounds out their peated lineup, squarely in between the entry-level Curiositas 10 Year and the recently upgraded Authenticus from 21 to 25 years old.

Like the 10 and 25 year expression, Septendecim is aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration.

Thanks to Dave McEldowney of PDXWhisky for letting me sample this one.

Benriach Septendecim

Nose: mossy/smokey peat, organic/farm-y, vanilla, bubblegum, berries, grape/purple, oak, malt, fresh hay, smoked ham/fish, salty, freshly tanned leather. After adding a few drops of water it becomes softer, the peat becomes more mossy with the smoke holding on underneath, the oak and farm-y notes retreat and integrate, unripe apples and pears emerge, and there's a touch of anise.

Taste: sweet fresh malt up with fruit/berry overtones and hay in the background, slides towards building (but ultimately restrained) oak tannins, dirty vanilla, a hint of citrus on top, organic/farm notes, and mossy peat smoke at the back. After dilution, the peat becomes softer and spreads across the palate, showing up right after the initial sweet malt, the fruit and berry notes are pushed to the back, and the vanilla integrates with the malt.

Finish: sweet peat smoke, moderate oak, earthy, vanilla, whipped cream

One of the main things that holds me back from recommending Benriach's peated malts in a full-throated fashion is the fact that they almost universally seem to have very heavy oak influence. While the bitter tannins sometimes complement the sharp peat smoke, they can also throw the experience out of balance. Despite being 50% older than most of the peated Benriach I've tried before, Septendecim manages to achieve a far better balance, with the oak being a component, but not overwhelming the other elements. It also manages to be significantly better than the 19 year old single cask bottled for K&L that I recently tried.

While there are significant differences between the two, this reminds me a lot of Laphroaig 18 Year, with the same heavy vanilla component balanced with sweetness, oak, and peat. However, I like the Benriach better because the vanilla is less heavy-handed and it's not quite as sweet. Whatever the reason, Septendecim really hits the mark for me. As a bonus, it's quite reasonably priced, running under $90 in most parts of the States. Given steadily rising prices for older single malts, it's nice to see an independently owned company providing quality whisky at a solid price.

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