In the heart of Speyside, between the barley fields and the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, lies this famous Scottish distillery. BenRiach is a story of loss and return. John Duff founded the distillery in Morayshire back in 1898. Just two years later the stills were mothballed in the wake of the The Great Whisky Recession and famous Pattison’s bankruptcy. In order to keep the lights on, Duff malted grain at BenRiach and distilled at Longmorn. The property changed hands several times among industry giants. But then a group of passionate dram-lovers contacted the famous Whisky expert Billy Walker to help them rescue this noble house in 2004. This was greeted with great enthusiasm by the spirits media and the public. The rousing success brought offers, and Brown Forman acquired the facility in April, 2016.
As for all great distilleries they use mostly, if not exclusively, resources that are locally available. The grains used for production grow all around the distillery and the water is drawn through the rocks from deep below. They obviously found the recipe for success, since they are winning major awards across their entire single malt range.
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Longmorn - BenRiach's sister distillery -- remains firmly held as a brand of Pernod Ricard.
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The Moray Council Area virtually defines the Speyside Whisky district. Moray is shaped like a funnel, with the tip pointed to the source-waters of the Spey River. Benriach is in the very middle of the wide end of that funnel, outside the town of Elgin.
Benriach is a story of loss and return. BenRiach was John Duff's second distillery, and he built it just up the way from his first -- Longmorn. These distilleries have a long-standing association and, back in the day, their flavors were almost identical.
This shouldn't be surprising, because the two shared resources. In fact, John Duff built a railroad in 1900 with a small, private steam locomotive in between the two shops in order to move supplies and materials in back and forth. They even shared the same water source.
BenRiach was founded in 1898, and things went swimmingly for a few years as they sold most of their production to large blended Whisky houses. They also issued a few single malt offerings.
But they suffered greatly when their largest customer -- Pattison's Whisky -- went bankrupt in the middle of a great scandal where the Pattison Brothers were found guilty of fraud, false accounting, and embezzlement.
This left BenRiach and its sister distillery Longmorn with upaid invoices and debt, as well as the loss of their biggest customer. Duff had to skimp and trim product, and BenRiach became a place for the preparation of grain. Longmorn ran their stills.
For decades since that time, BenRiach languished as a supplemental production facility for other more prominent distillers. The property was traded like a two-bit poker chip between the spirit conglomerates.
Then, in 2004, a small group of Whisky-lovers quietly purchased the property out from under the heel of Pernod Ricard and took them private, issuing a true BenRiach single malt Whisky again after 100 years of absense.
This was greeted with great enthusiasm by the spirits media and the public. The rousing success brought offers, and Brown Forman acquired the facility in April, 2016.
Some distilleries have been prettied-up for the tourists. BenRiach... not so much. It looks like a production facility, and produce they do -- up to 2.8 million liters per year. But the utilitarian exterior does not impact the art aging in their barrels.
Since that all-important transaction in 2004, they really upped the consistency and quality of the single malt. All of that hard work will pay off for years to come.
CountryUnited Kingdom, Scotland
No. of stills2 wash, 2 spirit
AddressThe BenRiach Distiller, Elgin, Moray, IV30 8SJ, UK