In the fall of 2020, four expressions from Benriach’s core range hit U.S. shores: The Original 10, The Smoky 10, the Original 12 and The Smoky 12. Today we’re looking at those first two, with evaluations of the Speyside distiller’s other recent releases to come later.
The Original 10 and Smoky 10 aren’t simply unpeated and peated versions of the same juice. The Original 10 is matured in bourbon, sherry, and virgin oak casks, while the Smoky 10 slumbers in bourbon, Jamaican rum, and toasted virgin oak. Benriach The Original 10 is bottled at 43% ABV, while the Smoky 12 ups the ante slightly at 46%.
Benriach The Original 10 Review
The orchard fruits notes that are typical of Benriach—apples, peaches, and pears—present on the nose, alongside vanilla, caramelized sugar, and touches of cinnamon spice and sherry. The whisky has a light-to-medium body with a clean, sharp presence on the tongue, and starts on the palate with green apple and burnt brown sugar. The center sees sherry and raisin emerge before a rich, earthy malt note takes us into a finish marked by sweet cream and dry, lingering spice.
— 43% ABV
Benriach The Smoky 10 Review
“Extinguished campfire” is the first thing that leapt to my mind after a sniff of Benriach The Smoky 10. It’s smoky, but in a certain earthy, wet way that recalled charred logs after a night of rain, accompanied by touches of rubber and petrol. But still detectable under these top notes are the same orchard fruits that feature in the Original 10, as well as sherry and vanilla bean, both of which seem richer, deeper, and more fleshed out. It is medium-bodied, and feels more oily in texture than the Original 10.
Smoke leads the way on the palate, mixed with fruit flavors to effect the feel of a burning orchard–think peaches, green apples and pears with a wonderful, woody char. Those campfire notes are accompanied by brown sugar, which takes on a charred, crispy feel at the center that reaches the level of char-grilled apples.
Sherried raisins take us to the back, where we encounter a note that couples sweet vanilla with malty cereals and something savory, like a piece of bacon or ham that’s found itself on the same fork as syrup-drizzled Belgian waffle debris during brunch. The Smoky’s finish feels a little more abrupt and less lingering than the 10, though I enjoyed that final malt/sweet/savory note enough that I couldn’t complain.
— 46% ABV
Turns out, I had quite a bit more to say about the Smoky 10 than the Original 10. While both were excellent, the smoky, charred and savory elements contained within the Smoky 10 creates further layers of complexity that put it over the top.