BenRiach 15 Pedro Ximenez – Dousing a Fire with Sherry

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I love surprises that don’t involve pain.

Well, shading that a bit: I love surprises that don’t involve intense or extended or sudden, cutting pain.

A little pain can be a good thing – exquisite, as they say – when it is defined, slow and anticipated, as with this BenRiach 15 Pedro Ximenez. This is a woman who will hurt you a bit with the things she does, but my guess is you’ll go back to her looking for exactly those things she does…

Let’s start at the end for once. The finish on this whiskey is almost exactly what I look for, that broad, spicy, slow burn that warms the throat and chest. This could go deeper and the burn could be less hot and more richly intense – this is Speyside, not Campbelton – but the finish here is lovely.

Nonetheless, this is not quite the warming liquid lust of Dalmore’s King Alexander III nor of a fine old sherried Macallan; this is hotter and less complex overall, a bit more sparkling and intensely youthful on the throat: Let’s call it liquid lasciviousness.

If Balvenie 17 Madeira Cask is a sophisticated, well-mannered, sweet woman, this BenRiach is her younger, less elegant, less sweet and more puissant sister.

But I can hardly say which would be the better date…

A medium amber with slow, thick legs, this one is tantalizing – not sassy, not wanton – from a good family and good schools, upper middle – but not high – class. You can, or rather you could, talk with her, enjoyably if not very deeply, on a variety of subjects. She could possibly become a lawyer someday, but making it to the Supreme Court is out of the question.

Her perfume tells you where she’s been – in the ponderous shadows of a sherry cask for an indeterminate time, but long enough to have taken on the character of that environment. Before that, and for most of her life, she was raised in proper oak, though at this age there are only hints of it – a bit of malty oakiness, but only a bit. More prominent here are oaky spices.

And, what is this? There is a plum halfway to a prune here, displayed beside a redolent glass of strong sherry.

Surprisingly, there is also a scent of cooked but cool pastry dough, and sweet butter – of buttered pastry across the table from a rack of cooking spices.

On the palate, the sherry dominates, with some sugary sweetness – caramel taffy? – and just a bit of that buttery pastry again. But rushing from under these come spices galore, overwhelming nearly everything else and resulting in a hot (but not warm), sharp, long finish – which is where we began!

It’s going to take more than a couple of dates to make up my mind about her; but, still, I am certainly not dreading the thought of spending more time with this pungent gypsy of a whiskey.

If you’d like to do the same, her address and phone number are here: http://www.benriachdistillery.co.uk/BENRIACHAGED15YEARSPEDROXIMENEZSHERRYFINISH.html

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