In April 2004 BenRiach Single Malt Scotch Whisky Distillery was acquired from Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) by three private entrepreneurs; Billy Walker, formerly of Burn Stewart Distillers, and South Africans Geoff Bell and Wayne Keiswetter. The new firm trades as the BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd, a totally independent and privately-owned organisation.
BenRiach is located in the ‘Heart of Speyside’, 3 miles south of the town of Elgin, in the North-East of Scotland. The distillery sources its water from the Burnside Springs located underground, deep below the distillery, and has the capacity to produce 2.6 million litres of pure alcohol per annum.Approximately 10% of new production is peated / 90% unpeated.The distillery is managed by Stewart Buchanan, formerly of Tobermory Distillery.
- 1898 The BenRiach Distillery is established by the Grant Family on the same site as the Longmorn Distillery. Indeed, locally BenRiach was sometimes referred to as ‘Longmorn 2’. However, the timing proves to be unfortunate, preceding the ‘Pattison Crash’ by just a few months. ‘Pattison, Elder and Co’, fronted by Robert and Walter Pattison, were the biggest purchaser of whisky at that time. Because of their buying power, distilleries were willing to extend significant credit to Pattison Elder, unaware of the firm’s precarious financial position. When they eventually went bust, many distilleries were crippled, and the whisky business moved into a period of recession.
- 1900 Widespread distillery closures follow the Pattison Crash, and BenRiach is mothballed after just two years of production. The distillery remains closed until 1965, however BenRiach’s floor maltings remain in constant production during this period, providing malted barley for the fully operational Longmorn Distillery.
- 1965 BenRiach is re-opened by Glenlivet Distillers Ltd, having been almost totally rebuilt, and production re-convenes. However, a large number of the distilleries mothballed in 1900 remain closed to this day, and in some cases have been demolished.
- 1972 In addition to the regular distillation, production of peated malt whisky commences. This move is a response to the increasing cost of Islay whisky due to a general industry shortage. With no Islay distillery in their portfolio, and with peated malt a key component in Seagram’s key blended whisky brands, the firm decided to produce their own peated Speyside, at BenRiach. Since taking over the distillery in 2004, we have continued to distil both varieties of BenRiach; peated and non-peated.
- 1978 Glenlivet Distillers Ltd, and the various distilleries under their ownership, including BenRiach and Longmorn, are purchased by Canadian whisky firm Seagrams.
- 1985 As production steps up, BenRiach is expanded from two stills to four.
- 1994 BenRiach is released for the first time as a single malt brand in its own right. The whisky is bottled at 10 years old / 43%, and is included as part of Seagram’s ‘Heritage Collection’ along with Strahisla (12YO), Glenkieth (1983) and Longmorn (15YO). Annual bottling is limited to a few hundred cases, and the original BenRiach 10YO, characterised by its understated pale-blue label, is somewhat of a rarity and particularly difficult to get hold off.
- 1999 The BenRiach floor maltings are closed, after 101 years of uninterrupted operation, as owners Seagrams opt to purchase their malted barley from an industrial malt house. The maltings remain in good working order, and could be re-activated almost immediately.
- 2001 Seagrams are acquired by French firm Pernod Ricard, creating the 2nd largest spirits firm in the world after Diageo. Pernod decides to focus on Glenlivet, Aberlour and Glen Grant, with Longmorn also to remain at full capacity. Glenkeith, silent since 1999, remains closed and Edradour, the smallest malt distillery in Scotland, is sold to independent Signatory. Four distilleries in the Pernod Ricard group move to rotational production, distilling for just 3 months of the year; BenRiach, Allt a’Bhainne, Braeval and Caperdonich.
- 2002 All four distilleries are subsequently mothballed in August of 2002.
- 2004 In April 2004 BenRiach is acquired by an independent consortium and production re-convenes immediately, meaning the inventory is almost uninterrupted, with a gap of just 20 months. On April 29th 2004 the acquisition of The BenRiach Distillery by an independent consortium is completed and production re-convenes almost immediately, meaning the inventory is effectively uninterrupted. On the 7th of August 2004 the first bottling of BenRiach under the new owners takes place; BenRiach ‘Heart of Speyside’, 12, 16 and 20 years old, and the peated 10 years old are all bottled for the first time. On the 20th of September 2004 the first distillation under the new owners is filled to cask. 96 ‘green’ (i.e. first-fill bourbon) barrels are filled, numbered 1 to 96, and are immediately transferred to the BenRiach warehouses for maturation, not to see the light of day for at least 12 years.
- 2005 In June, The BenRiach Distillery Company wins Best International Business at the 2005 Enterprising Scotland Awards.
- 2006 In June, The BenRiach Distillery Company wins Best Performing Small Business at the 2006 Enterprising Scotland Awards.
- 2007 BenRiach wins ‘Distillery of the Year’ at The Malt Advocate Magazine Whisky Awards in New York.
- 2008 The BenRiach Distillery Co purchases GlenDronach Distillery from Pernod Ricard for an undisclosed fee.
- 2009 BenRiach wins ‘Distiller of the Year’ at The Whisky Magazine ‘Icons of Whisky Awards’ in London.
- 2010 In August, The BenRiach Distillery Co purchases the Newbridge Bottling Plant from Pernod Ricard, creating a fully integrated Scotch whisky company, and the head office is relocated to the Newbridge Bond, just outside Edinburgh.
While BenRiach does not enjoy the consumer awareness of the likes of Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie or Glenlivet, it is fresh and contemporary and represents an opportunity for retailers to bring something new to their malt offer.Indeed, the transfer of ownership of an established distillery with real credibility from a multi-national into independent hands is a rare and significant event, and one which is universally well-received by whisky enthusiasts as a malt of previous limited availability becomes more accessible.
With the distillery we have acquired stock from every year from 1966 to the present day, which means we have an unbroken inventory that allows us to maintain consistency both in terms of product quality and supply price.