Review: BenRiach 16

The 8 Men of Malt enjoyed BenRiach 16 year old Speyside single malt whisky

Region: Speyside – Elgin

Strength: 46%

Tasting Notes: BenRiach 16

Overall: Dense, complex and satisfying

Color: Dark golden wine with amber depths

Nose: Full and feinty with dark botanicals trumping the caramel and vanilla, along with cedar and mixed fruit rising as cooking apples, orange rind, coconut and lemon juice

Splash: Popping with spice, oak, a malty richness, and a peaty, leafy edge

Palate: Full and firm, woody, chewy and complex with burnt toffee, bitter oranges, savory finishing herbs, dark chocolate, played out before a smoky background

Finish: Dry, long and softly peated, with faint candle wax, and chocolate covered oranges

Dry Nose: Smoke coats the glass, with hints of baking yeast and maple syrup

“This is a rich and savory whisky, ideal for a blustery Halloween night.”

Flavor Map BenRiach 16 single malt whisky
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Full Review

To see how today’s owners were doing with the revived BenRiach distillery, we chose the 16 year old expression, basically their core spirit with some maturity and simply aged in American bourbon oak, from the look of it. The answer is they are doing marvelously well.

The contents of the 16 are coming entirely from spirit made at the distillery before Billy Walker took the reins from its previous owners. According to BenRiach’s manager, Stewart Buchanan, Walker went through the entire stock of aging casks and personally developed the modern vattings that make up the current product line.

Color: The light and burnt golds reveal some amber in the darker corners and seem to predict what is to come.

Nose: Full and indulgent, with some honeyed sweetness offset by enjoyable feinty notes of fresh cigars in the box, and stable yards full of hay, fallen leaves, and creaking saddle leather. Peat is apparent early on. But shyly, each time the iodine and musty smoke stands up, some more flamboyant facet steals focus.

The center is malty and toffee-like, but it is infused with a hoard of mixed fruit, led by autumn cooking apples, a few pears, and fragrant oranges resting in an old wooden bowl. And winding throughout are subtle chocolate notes that increase over time.

This is a rich and savory whisky, ideal for a blustery Halloween night.

Splash: A splash as big as the nose, but with a surprising pop of black pepper, some prickly wine oak, a rolling blanket of malt, mulched leaves and musty peat.

Palate: Nicely full but quite firm. Chewy but lean, with sweeter edges around a dense and savory center. The wood is always there but never dominates.

This is a rather grown-up whisky, which belies what honey appeared in the nose. The grain is reminiscent of cooking oatmeal, the toffee is of burnt brown sugar, the chocolate is dark and bitter, the herbals are fit for a roast more than a dessert, the fruit is tart, like dry white wine, and although there is a spritz of lemon juice, the oranges are the peels rather than the flesh, and baked into a whole grain loaf with an occasional black currant.

Water brings out a bit more of the fresher fruits, mainly tropicals such as banana and coconut from the American oak, and puts some juice in the baked currants. But it also releases the wood smoke from the peat, and the feinty aspects like candle wax, some burning sulfur and a vaguely fatty quality one taster described as fresh lobster meat; hold the butter.

Finish: The initial finish is drying and clean, with as complex a mixture of toffee, pepper, chocolate, orange, and woody smoke as found in the palate. As it fades the smoke becomes more noticeable, along with some raw, yeasty dough, and the rest reduces into the faint but clear scent of maple syrup.

Dry Nose: Maypo, that maple flavored porridge, but I can still smell the burnt kitchen match that lit the stove.

And that is one man’s word on…

BenRiach 16 year old single malt

$84.99 at Astor Wines

Learn more about the BenRiach Distillery

BenRiach 16 review at

Official Distillery Website

The Whisky Lady take on BenRiach 16



  1. I purchased a bottle of BenRiach 16 yesteday, showing as 46% ABV, the same as the one you review here. But I’m finding very few on-line references or reviews of that aren’t for the 40% or 43%. Do you know how the 46% version fits into the history of this bottling?

    1. Keith, thank you for your query.

      I believe the 46% was for the export market and might have been exclusive to the USA.

      Is there an indication on your bottle (serial number, etc.) that might help date it?

      The distillery has been twice sold since the whisky in the old 46% 16 yo was put together. I suspect from the modern tasting notes on their website that the current version may actually have no peated malt at all. I have yet to try what is on the shelves here in NYC. But your query and my recent commitment to getting up to date may just make me go buy a bottle.

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