Singular K&L Exclusive Casks from Benrinnes & Caol Ila
“This Benrinnes is an absolute dream for someone looking for a malt-driven Speysider of the highest order.” — David Othenin-Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer
“This is a classic cask in the exceptional category … and a great example of why Caol Ila maintains its place of honor and love among drinkers around the world.”
— Andrew Whiteley, K&L Spirits Buyer
A veritable treasure trove of exclusive casks is now hitting our shelves just in time for the holidays, and one of the biggest contributors to the haul is Signatory, our beloved independent bottler out of Pitlochry. These latest entrants in an already stacked single-cask inventory hail from two of Scotland’s most distinguished distilleries, both seeing time in impeccable, first-fill bourbon barrels. The Benrinnes 13-Year-Old is a lovely expression of the distillery’s contemporary style since they changed distillation methods a few years back, and as spirits buyer Andrew Whiteley notes, it’s “a harbinger of what will be Benrinnes assured future glory.” Meanwhile, the highly sought-after and equally elusive Caol Ila makes an appearance in the form of a spectacular 12-year-old that “is pure and crystalline with the perfect level of peat,” according to David Othenin-Girard. Each cask offers that rare combination of quintessential distillery character, top-quality barrel influence, and a sweet-spot age statement that all come together in incredible values that any savvy connoisseur can cherish.
K&L Notes: The lovely Benrinnes distillery is one of Speyside’s best-kept secrets. Founded in 1826 by Peter McKenzie, the distillery is a stone’s throw from several household names like Glenfarclas and Aberlour. After being destroyed in a fire, the site was rebuilt in 1835 by John Innes under the name, “Lyne of Ruthries”. It became part of the Dewar’s family in 1922 but was subsequently purchased by the predecessor to Diageo and now is used as part of the famous Johnnie Walker blends. Once the home to an unusual triple-distillation process, the distillery switched to a more typical double-distillation in 2007. That doesn’t mean the malt is any less delicious. It produces a pure and fruity spirit that loves American oak. This lovely cask from the wonderful Pitlochry-based bottler is as classic as a Benrinnes can get. A beautiful nose of fruit and fresh malt. Vibrant and open on first nosing, it loves a few drops of water to further soften and will give any Speyside lover an absolutely sublime experience.
Andrew Whiteley | K&L Spirits Buyer | Review Date: October 27, 2022
The arrival of Signatory casks always serves to remind me why I love Scotch. The quality of Signatory’s stocks and wood management is extraordinary. Here we have a 13-year-old Benrinnes, distilled in 2009 and filled into a choice first-fill Bourbon barrel, and everything is on point. This isn’t quite as meaty and rich as Benrinnes of old, since they ditched their complex partial triple distillation in 2007, but this is more a harbinger of what will be Benrinnes assured future glory. Yielding just 190 precious bottles, this cask has a nose that screams of late summer days on a small farm. It is orchard fruits and fresh grain, sweet with a season of ripening. A grassy note with just a touch of earthy funk harkens back to Benrinnes’ classic style, but this is somehow sweeter and cleaner. Perhaps the first-fill barrel has something to do with it. Big caramel and butterscotch overtones with fresh vanilla pod cruising underneath play a sizable role. On the palate, fresh cream and more sweet grain are undergirded by a layer of peppery spice and honey. The palate is oily and rich—another hallmark of the house. The finish is medium in length, bright and clean like the nose. In a world where we’re seeing many a distillery bottling of 12-year creep well into triple digits, this 13-year-old cask-strength version of a classic Speysider at a reasonable price is a welcome addition to our shelves and is here just in time for holiday festivities.
David Othenin-Girard | K&L Spirits Buyer | Review Date: October 21, 2022
We’ve had so much fun selling Signatory over the years that I was disappointed we weren’t able to visit the wonderful warehouses at Pitlochry this year. But our friends Andrew and Des have pulled out all the stops, making sure we got access to incredibly high-quality stocks. We’ve had to fight to get the prices down from the stratosphere and have settled on what I would consider extremely reasonable prices for this set of casks, which will look high compared to some of our direct imports, but when you factor in the quality of the distillers and the barrels themselves, I believe they offer exceptional value. This Benrinnes is one of more than twenty casks from the excellent distillery that we’ve bottled over the years. Compared to some of the lower-flavored refill hoggies we’ve bottled previously, it’s got tons of personality. Still well within what we’ve come to expect, but more proof that seeking out first-fill barrels is always worth the premium. The color is a lovely yellow gold. The nose is a huge mélange of wild honey, ripe Bartlett pear, sweet cereal grains, hints of citrus oil, and fragrant yellow heliotropes. On the palate, it’s creamy and bright, offering more honey and sweet orchard fruit. A warming finish which adds bits of clove and vanilla. With a drop of water, the honey becomes even more pronounced as does the citrus. You can see the oily richness interact with the water, adding viscosity. On the palate, more vanilla and balancing woodiness comes through—bits of bitter herbs and evergreen. This Benrinnes is an absolute dream for someone looking for a malt-driven Speysider of the highest order. It drinks well beyond its age and price point.
K&L Notes: Two classic sites of consistent quality come together for this impeccable cask. Signatory—Pitlochry’s famous independent bottler—and Caol Ila, the Diageo-owned distillery tucked away just north of Port Askaig on Islay’s eastern shore. This distillery has played so many important roles throughout its history. Before the distillery began releasing its own age-stated products in the early 2000s, it was quietly blended away into the Johnnie Walker brands (among others), and single malt enthusiasts had to find independently bottled examples. Fortunately, due to the large capacity, there was no shortage of these IB casks available. Today, as the popularity has soared and Diageo claims more of the distllate for their own OB releases, it’s been harder to find prime examples of this wonderful distillery on the independent market. Fortunately for us, Signatory has been locking down these choice casks for a long time. Aged for 11 years in a first-fill bourbon barrel, this is classic Caol Ila with its mix of bright fruit, sea salt, and crab shell, and gentle wafting smoke all in abundance. Bottled at cask strength of 55.8% ABV and without color or chillfiltration. Cask No: 316322. Distilled on 09/20/2010, bottled on 06/14/2022. Yield 222 Bottles.
David Othenin-Girard | K&L Spirits Buyer | Review Date: October 21, 2022
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a sucker for Caol Ila. You know why? Because it’s freakin’ consistently amazing. The distillery produces such a wildly peated yet approachable malt, I’m often finding myself wondering why the owners of this distillery refuse to make it more prominent. They seem to have plenty of whisky to go around to our various suppliers, and while we know that Johnnie Walker sucks up a fair bit of the production, it seems like they only want to focus on their other Islay legend, Lagavulin. While they seem to ignore this special distillery, we certainly won’t! We’ve bottled countless casks from various IB bottlers in any number of variations, but it’s hard to argue that a great first-fill bourbon barrel isn’t the ideal vessel for this awesome malt. The color is a pretty pale gold. The purity of flavor and freshness are unprecedented. Lemon peels, linalool, saltwater spray, clean wool, clean white smoke, and crushed limestone. On the palate, it’s more smoldery than the nose might imply, but still with plenty of citrus and salt. Very richly textured and rather oily. All of it drawn together with a bright-green peat smoke. The addition of water brings out the saline, hints of salted fish coupled with more citrus and now some pine. On the palate, the texture is even richer with a sweet malt balancing the smoke perfectly. This one is pure and crystalline with the perfect level of peat. An absolutely lovely cask that would be hard to replicate with lesser-quality wood.
Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 20, 2022
The single malt drinker’s love affair with Caol Ila is easy to understand. Bottlings, be they official releases or independent casks, are almost always good, and often they are exceptional. This is a classic cask in the exceptional category. Just a clean and flavorful bourbon barrel is all this special distillery needs to shine. The vanilla and caramel notes of the barrel are the perfect pedestal to exalt the fruit, smoke, and salt of the malt. It pours the color of Manzanilla Sherry. The first nosing offers Bartlett pear, baked Granny Smith apples, succulent yellow peach, and a fine mist of sea spray with a light smoke in the air. The palate is outwardly sweet—a little honey meshed with the vanilla and butterscotch of the bourbon barrel conspire to highlight more fruit pie with a focus on the flaky, buttery crust that wasn’t so much in the nose. A salty broth of crab shell adds mineral and savory interest, as does the sweet smoke which is much more robust on the palate and finish than in the nose. It’s a lovely dram and a great example of why Caol Ila maintains its place of honor and love among drinkers around the world.