This whisky has an interesting story, going through a secondary aging in Japanese cedar, honoring the Omiwa Shrine at the food of Mount Miwa. The name means God Breath, inspired by the breezes coming from the Mountain of the God. You can tell there’s some story behind the whisky. And that first taste tells you there’s quality whisky in the bottle. I wish it had a better finish, which would have moved my final verdict from Bar to Bottle, but it’s still an interesting enough whisky to try at least once.
This is a swell whiskey. It’s balanced, bold—even muscular—and pretty much what a properly aged 15-year-old bourbon should taste like. Some sourced whiskey shows the talent or luck of the barrel hunter, so let’s call Grain & Barrel Spirits’ master distiller Gregg Snyder talented. It’s delicious. Ironically, I had this same whiskey from a full bottle bought by a friend, and it did little for me. A month later, I got a sample bottle from Chicken Cock, and it was praiseworthy. Go figure. I have no explanation for it.
This was a pleasant surprise. I have had the opportunity to try a number of KO Distilling whiskies including their Cask Strength Offerings at 120 proof and at least 3 years in age. I found them very hot and a good bit of youth showing through. The Distiller’s Reserve is a different story however. The sample I tried was 52 months. A wheated bourbon that is Non Chill Filtered. I would get a slight hint of youth every now and again but overall, this was a very enjoyable bourbon. Soft and sweet going in with a good bit of spice at the end for a wheated bourbon. I have in my collection a 4-year-old Bottled in Bond wheated bourbon from a craft distillery in Kentucky that many people are raving about and I can say that I liked this KO bourbon a lot more.
The nose says, “Whiskey;” the palate says, “Bourbon;” the finish says, “Rye.” I like whiskeys that take you on a journey from the nose through to the finish. As a blend, Manchester Reserve takes you on less of a journey and more around some sharp turns. The nose almost seems delicate for the proof, but the bourbon notes on the palate, followed by a strong rye finish, lacks the harmony I expect in a blend. If “surprising turns” is your whiskey style, you may like this. I think it’s certainly worth a try.
I can’t say I was really looking forward to this whisky, so I was surprised to find how much I really like it. It drinks a bit hotter than it’s 92 proof, but just a drop of water affects that nicely. Too much water, and it’s just kind of a sweet water; add water judiciously, but do try it with a drop or two. The whisky is made with desalinated ocean water, and the company makes a big deal about that. it’s just water, though, but at least it’s clean water, and it actually makes a decent whisky.
I’ve had a hard time remembering a time when my tasting notes differed so widely from the brand’s own for a bottle I actually liked (usually when the difference is this great, it’s a dumpster fire). The sample bottle I received tasted simply like The Original Ten that had a couple extra years on it. I did not pick up virtually any of the sugar or dark fruit notes that a sherried whisky or one aged in port casks should impart. To the contrary, I found the finish quite tart and dry. That being said, I quite liked this bottle and wouldn’t want people to think that it’s not worth a taste. Of the non-smoked whiskies coming out of Benriach right now, though, I believe The Original Ten to be a better value.
Despite the inviting nose—which revealed layer after incredible layer of aromas the longer it rested—whiskey is for drinking, and that effort ended the fun for me.
I get that others like some of these extra-long-aged bourbons; in fact, I appreciate it. That crowd is wired differently from me and variety is a great thing. But unlike Michter’s, which somehow pulls off the feat of bottling 20- and 25-year bourbon and rye that is as drying, it doesn’t win me over. This 22-year dries up quickly and heads right to astringency for me. Your reactions may vary, and I hope they do, especially if you spend the exorbitant sums requested online.
If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely seen this bottle in the #3 spot of the Whisky Advocate Top 20 Whiskies of 2020 list and have come to Bourbon & Banter as your one-stop-shop for some honest feedback.
Here’s what I’ll tell you: this whisky is like drinking a very good, mildly-sherried scotch while someone across the room from you is smoking a cigar that you think you’d like the smell of it were closer. I do not say that to imply that this is a bad whisky: it’s not. While it’s Nose is only solid, the Taste on this is really something special, and the Finish is really unique and enjoyable.
With all the press that The Smoky Twelve has been getting recently, I was anxious to find out if The Smoky Ten (which comes in 10 dollars cheaper) is as solid an offering from Benriach. If you’re making a lists of ‘Best Value Whiskies of 2020’ this deserves on a spot on it whether your list is 20 bottles long or 5.
All the bottles I was fortunate enough to try from Benriach are solid whiskies on their absolute worst days and I’m keen to try some more from them in the future. To me, the peated whiskies stand above their unpeated offerings in terms of quality, and the hero of this one is the wood management. Each cask that the spirit is aged in takes center stage at some point in the tasting. The Jamaican rum casks offer some brown sugar and a bit of chocolate to pair with the peat and smoke on the nose. The bourbon barrels give the palate just the right amount of spice. Lastly, the toasted virgin oak ties the finish up in a neat, little bow that really makes you want to start the whole thing over.