In the fall of 2020, four expressions from Benriach’s core range hit U.S. shores: The Original Ten, The Smoky Ten, the Original Twelve and The Smoky Twelve. Today we’re looking at those first two, with evaluations of the Speyside distiller’s other recent releases to come later. 

The Original Ten and Smoky Ten aren’t simply unpeated and peated versions of the same juice. The Original Ten is matured in bourbon, sherry, and virgin oak casks, while the Smoky Ten slumbers in bourbon, Jamaican rum, and toasted virgin oak. Benriach The Original Ten is bottled at 43% ABV, while the Smoky Ten ups the ante slightly at 46%.

Benriach The Original Ten Review

benriach original 10 scotch whisky bottle sitting on a barrel

Benriach The Original Ten starts with orchard fruits that are typical of the distiller’s house style, with 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
— $53.99

Benriach The Smoky Ten Review

benriach smoky 10 scotch whisky bottle sitting on a barrel

“Extinguished campfire” is the first thing that leapt to my mind after a sniff of Benriach The Smoky Ten. 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 Ten, 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 Ten.

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 Original Ten, though I enjoyed that final malt/sweet/savory note enough that I couldn’t complain. 


— 46% ABV
— $59.99

Turns out, I had quite a bit more to say about the Smoky Ten than the Original Ten. While both were excellent, the smoky, charred and savory elements contained within the Smoky Ten creates further layers of complexity that put it over the top.

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