Benriach is a Scotch whisky distillery near the town of Elgin in Speyside. Since 2016 it has been under the ownership of American whiskey distiller Brown-Forman. A new range of Benriach single malts, created by master blender Dr Rachel Barrie, was released in 2020.
Benriach’s spirit is light to medium-bodied with a sweet, fruity character. Triple distilled versions enhance the fruity notes while peated expressions add an element of smoke.
Benriach is something of a chameleon malt, working well with a wide array of different cask types.
Benriach produces three distinct spirits: classic, peated and triple distilled.
The classic and triple distilled versions use unpeated malt. Meanwhile, malt peated to 35 phenol parts per million is used during the smoke season.
Benriach also has a malting season. For one month every year, local barley is malted on the distillery’s original malting floor.
The distillery's mashing process uses four batches of water, as opposed to the more conventional three. This takes longer but extracts maximum sweetness from the barley.
Distillation runs slowly, too. This patient approach encourages the capture of more fruity esters in the spirit run.
Benriach’s warehouses hold one of the most diverse cask selections in Scotland. There are virgin oak casks and casks that previously held bourbon, rum, Madeira, sherry, port, red wine and marsala.
Benriach was founded by John Duff. In 1893, Duff established Longmorn just south of Elgin. Within five years he was ready to expand and built Benriach on adjoining land. Production began in 1898. The two distilleries were linked by a short private railway. A steam locomotive transported coal, barley, peat and casks from one to the other.
Benriach had only been in production for two years when it was forced to close. Repercussions from the bankruptcy of Pattisons Ltd had a catastrophic effect on the wider industry and distilleries all over Scotland were forced to close. The whole sorry episode became known as The Pattison Crash.
Benriach would remain silent for six decades but Longmorn survived the fallout and continued to utilise its neighbour’s malting floor. This likely saved Benriach from demolition.
The 1960s brought renewed confidence in the Scotch whisky industry. New distilleries were being commissioned and old plants were taken out of mothballs. Under the ownership of Glenlivet Distillers, Benriach was renovated and back in production by 1965.
Glenlivet was taken over by Seagrams in 1977, making Benriach part of Chivas Brothers. When Seagrams itself was taken over by Pernod Ricard, however, Benriach fell out of favour once more. The distillery closed in 2001 and lay silent for three years.
It was announced in April 2016 that Brown-Forman, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, was to buy Benriach and its sister distilleries for £285million.
The new owners have invested heavily in both the distillery and brand. Dr Rachel Barrie was employed as a master blender and tasked with creating a new range of single malts. The Benriach relaunched in 2020 with modern packaging and a core range of flavour-led whiskies.
2021 saw the opening of a new Benriach distillery visitor centre. For the first time, guests can tour the distillery and take part in tastings or sip cocktails in the purpose-built bar.