Imagine this scenario:
Man walks into the bottle shop to peruse the whisky aisles. Man spots a previously unnoticed canister and picks it off the shelf. ‘Look at this thing… purple and gold… it ‘s hideous… What kind of wimp dreamt- Hold the phone!… 15 years?… dark rum finish?… Hmmm… Okay, quickly, while nobody’s looking at you carrying this girly-looking bottle…’
Now, there’s a chance that I’m misremembering just a tad here. But not as much as you might think. I really do hate the colour scheme involved in this presentation and I damned near did put it back on the shelf for a moment before I came to my senses. Obviously the labels outside the bottle have no bearing on the spirit within, but there I was nearly making a common but foolish mistake… Whew, close one there!
BenRiach 15 Year Old Dark Rum Finish comes from the Speyside region of Scotland. According to the canister notes, this single malt was aged in American ex-bourbon barrels, then “finished” in Jamaican rum casks. (I’d love an explanation for their use of quotation marks!) BenRiach 15 Rum is bottled at 46% abv and runs about $80 CDN in my locale.
I think I’ve been pretty upfront about my appreciation for lightly coloured whiskies since I take it as unofficial evidence that no artificial colours are contaminating my dram. BenRiach 15 Rum, surprisingly, fits that description – I would have expected the rum casks to impart a deeper hue. By the way, both the carton and the bottle point to the “Natural Colour” of this dram.
Pale straw with occasional flashes of gold.
In the Nose
This whisky has a unique nose. The first aromas that jump out at me are toasted marshmallow and a dry, grassy note, along with some juicy orchard fruits. Strange, I know, but surprisingly nice. A little time reveals dark dried fruits, dark brown sugar, along with some subtle oak. There is a tropical note to be found, I think – pineapple perhaps – but maybe I only think so because I’m looking for influences of the rum barrels. There is also vanilla and, if I search hard enough, a herbal, heathery character is lifted on the breezes. It’s a nice nose but for some reason the actual experience doesn’t seem nearly as complex as I’ve made it out to be.
On the Tongue
Bitter oak tannins jump my taste buds, along with some fairly typical Speyside flavours – grassy notes with honeyed sweetness. Once again, however, the grass seems drier and dustier than in most Speysides. There is also a definite malty character accompanied, once again by dark fruits which are now joined by some marmalade and apricot jam. A touch of cinnamon and a few baking spices are also present, which kind of reminds me of raisin bread or a cinnamon bun. The finish is medium long but, really, the best flavours quickly make way for a grassy bitterness and an alcohol astringency. There may be a few walnuts hiding in there too but it’s not a particularly pleasing finale. Regarding the overall flavour, as with the nose, I feel like I’ve described a bit more than the dram truly seemed to be offering.
All in all, BenRiarch 15 Year Old Dark Rum Finish is a decent enough dram but definitely not a favourite. There is some complexity to be sure but one has to search hard to discern a lot of it and the flavours don’t seem to properly complement each other, resulting in a whisky that, in my opinion, isn’t as balanced as I want my 15 yr old, approaching $100 bottles to be.