Also read BENRIACH 10 ANS CURIOSITAS vs SMOKY TEN
You know very well that when you are called PEAT DREAM, you can have a certain penchant for peated whiskies, so imagine when you learn that one of the rare distilleries of the SPEYSIDE which slips more or less big drops of peated distillate in its creations (apart from a few distilleries which produce limited editions such as THE BALVENIE and its WEEK OF PEAT for instance), announces that it is going to release a strongly peated whisky: the SMOKE SEASON.
And when they tell you that this version will be cask strength...! You have to go and see it !
So, accompanied by my faithful BRAD PEAT, I'm back in the Scottish highlands near ELGIN in the middle of the SPEYSIDE in the most colourful and sunny distillery of the region (as many sunny days as in Barcelona - yes, it is!).
Peat and BENRIACH is a very old story, but since 1972 it has taken over. There is always a touch of peat in a good BENRIACH! Nevertheless, since the arrival of Doctor RACHEL BARRIE at the helm of the distilleries, the peat of the origins (a little shy and discreet) has made its comeback in the distillates: THE SMOKY TEN, THE SMOKY TWELVE, THE TWENTY ONE.... It is important to remember that the use of this natural material in the whisky production cycle is one of the trademarks of the new Master Blender of the distillery (who has been working for several years in one of the peaty references : BOWMORE).
So here it is, 4 years after her arrival, she launches herself and produces what will certainly be the most peaty of the SPEYSIDE whiskies: the SMOKE SEASON.
So before tasting this little nugget, let's first set the scene. Let's take a peat from the HIGHLANDS composed of organic matter only (decomposed trees and heather) and not maritime like we can have in the islands or on the coasts (algae and minerals). As it burns, it will produce a very dense and sweet smoke.
Then, as not all the production is made from peat drying, you take only one period in the year where it smokes from all sides in the distillery (the SMOKE SEASON!!). This distillate is still announced at 45 PPM (which is a first for the region, as it is closer to ISLAY standards).
Finally, once distilled, you take a liquid that has been left for 8 to 10 years (depending on Dr Barrie's choice) either in ex-Bourbon casks or in virgin American oak barrels that have been thoroughly blended and taken out of the cask (directly bottled) at 52.8% alc/vol and you will obtain a well-marked yellow colour (almost tending towards a light brown).
Now you already have the smell of the fireplace in your nose, but is there anything else? Let's find out together.
The nose ad is dedicated to the peat lover. Like a magnet, peat attracts the nose, which always wants more.
When it plunges into the glass, the nose will discover a certain sweetness despite the degree of the distillate (52,8% Alc/vol). The peat is there waiting for you, frank but warm (much more than an island peat which will be more maritime and fresh). We are sitting by the fire talking about the scent with Rachel. We detect a hint of spice that tickles the eyelashes.
The second pass will stay warm and even get sweeter with vanilla and apricot. As the nose lingers in the glass, it discovers a hint of lemon in the background and pepper.
The third pass will reveal the true nature of the distillate and bring out the peat (still) but also the barley and the almost green woody side of the heather.
The palate will be like the nose: warm and mellow. One will discover a biscuity sweetness with the power of the degrees which will be revealed in the form of the bitterness of a lemon peel. Nevertheless, the strength calms down to leave room for the mellowness of honey. The distillate seems thick and soft like bread from the oven (heated with peat). This soft sensation remains even over the duration of the presence in the mouth (except for the return of a lemony hint which now makes a passage to the bottom of the mouth). The peat is warm and does not make you want to swallow at all! The tasting even ends on roasted nuts and a touch of almond.
The finish, because you have to swallow after a while, will be quite long and will leave the sweetness of an almond shell in the mouth and beautiful and long smells of smoke in the throat (accompanied at the very beginning by a hint of spice) and in the head.
Keep the empty glass under your elbow, every time you pass by smell it and you will remember this beautiful journey.
Frankly, I like to give my feelings but not my opinion, but here, we are on a beautiful success and I feel that at its release it will be necessary to be the first ones because the bottles will leave like rolls (of peat) !