In 1898 the BenRiach Distillery was formed by the Grant family and it was situated in the same location as the Longmorn Distillery. At the time, locals were known to refer to it as Longmorn 2. Despite initial optimism, the establishment of BenRiach was poorly timed as its opening only preceded the ‘Pattison Crash’ by a few months. The biggest purchaser of whisky, Pattison, Elder and Co, went bust and took many distilleries with them. Due to their huge buying power, distilleries extended large amounts of credit to the company, unaware of their true financial situation. In 1900, following the Pattison crash, the whisky recession hit, and distilleries closed all over the country. BenRiach was included in this and was mothballed for the first time just two years after opening. However, the floor maltings remained in continuous use providing malted barley for the neighbouring Longmorn Distillery.
Sixty-five long years followed until 1965 when Glenlivet reopened the distillery for production after buying and fully refurbishing the mothballed BenRiach. Glenlivet was then bought by Chivas Brothers in 1978, whose parent company Seagram began to produce peated malt for the BenRiach blends in 1983. Peated malt now makes up around 10% of BenRiach’s total output.
It took until 1994 for the distillery to release their first official bottling of a BenRiach single malt which came in the form of a very underwhelming 10-year-old. Five years later the floor maltings were mothballed which are only recently being refurbed for a reopening. Pernod Ricard bought the distillery in 2001 and by 2002 BenRiach was once again mothballed.
In 2004 a consortium headed by Billy Walker purchased the distillery and has since saved a forgotten about brand. The disappointing 10-year-old was discontinued and was replaced by a very exciting 12-year-old and a 16-year-old.
The Speyside region is renowned for many great whiskies but BenRiach is known to stand out thanks to its own unique qualities. Very particular methods including the ingredients used, the distinct copper stills, the skill of the distillers and the barrels used for maturation all add to the intrigue of BenRiach single malt. The previous 10-year-old was uninspiring however the range now on offer is very exciting and dynamic. The 12-year-old makes for a feisty dram whilst the 16-year-old is critically acclaimed. There are also a handful of limited releases that are variously aged and extremely vibrant.
The revival in demand for peaty malts fell perfectly into the laps of the new owners as well, as they have truly taken advantage of the hidden gems within the BenRiach warehouses that have been distilled within the last 25 years. The full revival of a hugely neglected distillery was probably best noted when they received the ‘Distillery of the Year’ award from Malt Advocate Magazine in 2007. Since then the distillery has gone from strength to strength as has gained a passionate following.