The Smoky Twelve is one of the 4 base-line expressions of BenRiach recently revamped by their master blender, Dr. Rachel Barrie. I had the opportunity to taste all of them side-by-side which always makes for a very interesting experience. This one turned out to be my second favorite in that group.
Nose: Hm…. hello? Anybody there? This is a very shy nose. There’s something in the glass though. A little peat kitten hiding at the bottom, mewling forth little puffs of soft smoke. Very, very slowly the nose dares to emerge from the glass. A more refined smoke than the Smoky Ten but, for, uh, peat’s sake, please, come out of there already! Have a bit of fun in my nose! I won’t hurt you, I promise. Hints of mint. Or perhaps I’m hallucinating. Feeling a little bit lightheaded from the effort of breathing so hard to pull this nose up out of the glass. (7.0/10)
Palate: Hits with the texture of dry, dark chocolate. Quiet on flavors at first but subtly buzzing like a lit fuse. Then, after a few moments, flavor unfolds like an old canvas unrolling to reveal a rich painting of billowing dark smoke over glowing red depths. This is quite lovely and rather unexpected based on the nose. Not so unexpected is the degree of complexity compared to the Smoky Ten. Once again, as with the Original Ten and The Twelve, those extra 2 years made a huge difference. (7.6/10)
Finish: Not entirely unlike the Smoky Ten, the finish is struggling just a little bit to stay level. It’s really good though. Layers of smoke build up and only deflate occasionally and briefly. This one reaches just a little deeper into the chest than the Smoky Ten and flares up more pronouncedly on each breath. There’s a slight green aftertaste but it doesn’t bother me too much. (7.5/10)
Balance: All sides of this whisky are worth exploring but, man, that nose takes some effort to get to. No matter though. Once you’re a few sips in all is good and the struggle is quickly forgotten. The Smoky Ten is just fine but this one takes the same concept a notch or two further up. For BenRiach those extra 2 years from 10 to 12 have proven magical both for these peated and the non-peated expressions. Out of the basic BenRiach line-up revamped by Dr. Rachel Barrie both this and The Twelve have turned out to be clear successes. I’ll be happy to spot them on some bar’s shelf and have a dram or two. (7.3/10)