John Duff’s Longmorn distillery was so successful that within a year he had started construction on a neighbouring sister distillery, which he named…Longmorn #2. The distilleries were linked by a private railroad to carry coal, barley, peat and casks between the sites. But this ambitious investment very quickly fell through, as it coincided with the bursting of the late-19th-century whisky bubble, and John Duff had to sell up. Longmorn #2, by now renamed BenRiach, was closed, and remained silent for nearly 7 decades until 1965.
Even then, the distillery did not have the opportunity to show off its potential. Changing hands several times over the next forty years, it served the unromantic purpose of churning out malt to order for blended whiskies, and under Pernod Ricard from 2001-2004 the distillery was producing for only three months a year. Ricard were probably quite happy to sell it off to a consortium of independent shareholders, who began calling themselves the BenRiach Distillery Company.
What they have achieved since then with this hitherto neglected distillery has been nothing short of astounding. Previously a producer of bland blending fodder, BenRiach has become one of the most innovative and dependably high-quality single malts on the market. They alone seem to be able to use any type of cask finish to produce a malt that is enhanced (rather than restricted) by its wood type every time; they have used old blending stock to produce a bewildering array of peated and unpeated expressions to encompass every conceivable style of single malt, and have yet to distill a drop that does not put its larger Speyside neighbours to shame. Herbal, woody Speyside subtlety is their trademark, but the depth and breadth of flavours throughout their roster
A connoisseur’s favourite, BenRiach is a stunning example of what great care and passion (and, above all, high quality casks) can do to bring any distillery to an enviable level of success. Since their transformation of BenRiach, the company has taken over Glendronach and turned it around in similar fashion, and looks set to repeat the trick with the newly-acquired Glenglassaugh. The Benriach Distillery Company was sold to Brown-Forman Corporation in June 2016.