Whiskyfest Visitation: Benriach
With the biggest whisky-tasting event in the U.S. happening in San Francisco tomorrow, many of the producers are flying in tonight to prepare and make the rounds. I expect I'll be shaking hands with many Scotsmen as the day goes on, who want to come say "hello" before the big show tomorrow. I just met with Stewart Buchanan, the brand ambassador for Glendronach and Benriach and he had a few new malts to show us – a 16 year old Sauternes-finished whisky and a fantastic, peated 12 year old that had been finished in PX sherry. We all really loved the 12 year and can't wait to add that to the shelf (if you're going tomorrow night, make sure you taste it!).
Chatting with Stewart, he told me some interesting news about the distillery happenings. The first thing that caught my attention was the increased fermentation times. Stewart said that Billy Walker, the managing director, had been pushing the fermentation up to 96 hours per mash! Many distilleries are around 40-50 hours. Previously, the longest fermentation I had ever heard of was at Oban, where 90 hours was the norm. Because it takes so long to make Oban as fruity and round as possible, it's the only Diageo-owned distillery that doesn't go into any of their blended whiskies (they don't have time to wait around, gotta keep pumping out that Walker Black!). Because of this extended fermentation time, it takes much longer to make Benriach whisky now, which leads to the second interesting fact: they're no longer selling extra whisky to Diageo or Pernod-Ricard.
There's a long history of whisky-swapping in the Scotch industry. Many times, this is how independent bottlers end up with casks from various distilleries. I guess Benriach had been making extra whisky for other blended whisky companies over the past decade who were always in need of more juice, but that's all coming to an end. Sorry, guys. Benriach is too busy making some of the best single malt on the planet. No time for you anymore! This doesn't surprise me one bit. Benriach and Glendronach are slowly becoming two of the most-respected malts in the business. People are catching on to their quality and sales are going up.
Can't wait to get our 27 year old cask in, along side these two newbies. Yum.