Review: Benrinnes 23 Year (Diageo Special Releases 2009)

In my last review, I mentioned that Benrinnes really does two things well: cask strength and heavily sherried. Well, it doesn’t get much more cask strength and heavily sherried than the Diageo Special Releases 2009 edition of Benrinnes 23 Year. This was the first OB release of Benrinnes in a very long time and it’s apparent that they have a decent amount of well-aged stock in their warehouses. It’s hard to stomach that so much output from Benrinnes was simply blend fodder for so many years. Luckily, increased awareness and demand of the brand is making for more releases as a single malt.

In any case, this is a highly popular but very polarizing release. Some people think it’s over the top with oak. Others think there’s an off-putting sulfur note. Others still think it’s one of the best releases of any distillery in recent history. What did I think?

Benrinnes 23 Year

Benrinnes 23 Year 1985 (Diageo Special Releases 2009) - 58.8% ABV
Category Notes
Appearance Red copper
Nose Crazy sherry influence. Winey, berries, maraschino cherries, raisins, marshmallow, Christmas spice, banana, red grapes, almonds, cigar box. Surprisingly, it actually smells older and mustier with water. A floral/perfumy note emerges with time as well as cherry candy.
Taste Thick and juicy, a bit hot, fruit punch, big oak, creamy vanilla, more berries and cherries, cinnamon, mixed dried fruits. With water, additional sweetness and even a tart citrusy note, burnt sugar, nutty.
Finish Drying. Again, big sherry up front, meaty, tanin-y oak, very rich. Oak and berries remain for at least a minute. Not a huge change with water. That really nice oak still lingers at the end for a long time.
Overall Thoughts If you like big oak and big sherry, look no further. This is certainly right up my alley. It's a wonderful balance between the oak, sherry, and spice. Complex and evolving over time. I don't get any sulphur issues with the sherry casks here, but I could see how people might be put off by the oak. I think it's a HUGE asset here, but this is coming from the guy who has yet to find a release that tops The Balvenie Tun 1401, the pinnacle series of insane oak influence.
Total Score 98/100