Profile on a Massive Collection of BenRiach Single Malt

MAGNUS HAS THE BIGGEST COLLECTION OF BENRIACH!
  
A Swede has the biggest collection of BenRiach malt whisky in the world. Magnus Fagerstrom (44) from Helsingborg in the south of the country started collecting BenRiach two years ago and now has 201 different bottles plus miniatures and toy trucks with the BenRiach logo on the side! Here, Magnus explains how his interest in BenRiach has grown over the years, how he has painstakingly put his collection together, the generosity of other fans, the detective work required to make the collection complete and, in Magnus’s opinion, the best BenRiach ever.
 
“Back in May 2004, I started to keep a record of which whiskies I tasted and over the next five years I evaluated almost 2800 different types. I then started to think about collecting full bottles but first I had to establish three important criteria.
 
“Number one is, of course, that it has to be a very good whisky. A friend of mine, Anders Melin, had given me some BenRiach, so that was the first criterion met. BenRiach it would be!
 
“Secondly, it had to be possible to get a complete collection. Before Billy Walker and his colleagues took over BenRiach, there was only one distillery bottling made, so that criterion was also met.
 
“In addition, I had to track down all the expressions and as I started collecting three years after the first new releases came, I had to investigate which ones had been issued and how to get hold of them. Two people gave me excellent help – Belgian collector Bert Bruyneel and Alistair Walker at BenRiach. The two most important criteria were therefore met.
 
“Thirdly, it had to be affordable and I thought it was.
 
“The final thing that convinced me I should collect BenRiach is that it was re-started in 1965 after 65 years of silence. I was born in 1965 so I thought that coincidence was an extra fun thing! Unfortunately, there were no casks from 1965 still in stock when Billy took over and I doubt whether there ever were any 1965 bottled as I haven’t heard of any.
 
“In collecting BenRiach, I’ve had excellent help from many friends around the world. I’ve been in contact with wonderful people in Taiwan, Japan, South Africa and all over Europe to get hold of different bottles for my collection. After a lot of research, there were just four bottles missing from the collection.
 
“I tried to buy them from Bert but initially he declined my offer. But then all of a sudden he said I could buy his whole collection of 80 bottles. His price was reasonable so I got a loan from my bank to fund the purchase. So now I have all the official bottlings ever made in my collection…as far as I know anyway!
 
“You might ask: why does a Swede get so excited about BenRiach? The answer is I like the fact that BenRiach has both peated and unpeated whisky. I also like the packaging and all the stuff that BenRiach does. And after I visited the distillery a few weeks ago I am even more excited. I had a great time with Stewart Buchanan that day.
 
“I’m often asked what is the oldest BenRiach I have. Age-wise, the oldest one is the BenRiach 40 year old but if we are talking about when it was bottled I have a BenRiach 1969 that was bottled in 1981.
 
“And the most I have ever paid for a bottle of BenRiach is £740 which I paid for the 40-year-old.
 
“Taste-wise, my favourite BenRiach bottling is the 1976, cask 3557, bottled for La Maison du Whisky in France. It is a fantastic dram. Very close behind is the 1976, cask 8079, bottled exclusively for the famous Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside. 1968 and 1976 seem to have been fantastic years for BenRiach.
 
“Another favourite is the 1980, cask 2535, Virgin Oak at 55%. It’s a very special whisky that has spent 26 years in a virgin cask. Actually, that is something that shouldn’t work but with BenRiach these virgin casks are excellent. There are some 1994 virgin casks released that are very good too.
 
“Collection-wise, my favourite bottlings are some of the special ones, like the “Cape Of Storms” bottles bottled for South Africa. A very special bottle is the 1994, cask 3244. It was bottled for Whisk-e in Japan and I have two different ones. One is made for Isetan (168 bottles) with the text “Exclusively for Isetan” on the label and the other doesn’t have that wording. Bottling dates are one month apart and there are only 60 bottles made without the Isetan text on the label.
 
“The fact is I have not tasted all of the BenRiachs in my collection, as some are just too valuable to open. I have not been able to afford to buy doubles of all of them, but I try to buy an extra bottle so I can taste them. I still have quite a few doubles that I haven’t opened yet, but there are a few bottles for which I don’t have doubles. I hope the distillery will provide me with samples of new bottlings so I can try them without having to buy double bottles. For independent bottlings, I only buy one of each as it is the distillery bottlings that are number one in my collection.
 
“I currently have 201different bottles of BenRiach: 45 are non-vintage distillery bottlings, 84 are single cask distillery bottlings and 72 are independent bottlings. I have ordered another 1 distillery bottling and 1 independent bottle but they haven’t arrived yet. I also have 9 miniatures and 12 toy trucks with BenRiach advertisements on the sides!
 
“I have some great stories about my collection. For example, I knew there was a 12-year-old called “Cape of Storms” exclusively bottled for South Africa. I had no idea how to get hold of one but a friend put me in touch with someone who had one. Unfortunately, after a lot of negotiations the guy backed out. I started to search the Internet and found a 16-year-old on WhiskyLive’s website in Cape Town. They forwarded my email to the importer in South Africa and he wrote back to say he had a special gift pack with both the 12 and 16-year-old! I emailed back, sent him a link to my webpage with my BenRiach collection, and the next day I got a very nice email. He had shown my collection to the two South African partners in BenRiach, Geoff Bell and Wayne Keiswetter, and they also liked what they saw. As it was close to my birthday, they sent me the two bottles as a gift! When the bottles arrived I had to pay Swedish tax, but I did that happily. And when I opened the box, inside was a “Happy Birthday” card signed by both Wayne and Geoff! I treasure that card almost as much as the “Cape of Storms” bottles!
 
“Another wonderful story relates to the time I picked up the bottles I bought from Bert Bruyneel. He kindly arranged a tasting which we finished with a 1976 bottled for the Craigellachie Hotel and then another 1976 for La Maison du Whisky. He told me to buy as many 1976 LMdWs as possible but at 195 euros I had only bought one; after tasting it I cursed myself for not having bought more. There was of course one in the collection I bought so I do have one extra for drinking. I tried to convince Bert to sell me another one as he had some unopened, but he refused. He said I was more than welcome to come and visit him and help him drink it but, as he put it: “This is the best BenRiach ever and I want it to last for the rest of my life”, so I totally understand that he holds on tightly to the ones he has!
 
“Everyone is different when it comes to how they drink BenRiach but personally I first taste everything neat. When evaluating, I always add a few drops of water to see what it does for the whisky. When I drink for pure pleasure I prefer it neat or sometimes with some water. Some whiskies are best neat even when they are very high in alcohol and others need some water to open them up a bit. But ice is an absolute no-no when it comes to my BenRiach!
 
“I’m often asked to sum up the unique appeal of BenRiach. I would say: “classic fruity Speyside with a peaty twist.
“I’m not a great fan of food with whisky as I prefer to have my whisky by itself. At tastings I use dark chocolate and crackers to cleanse the palate and sometimes coffee when it’s a big tasting, but I haven’t yet found any food with which I would like to drink whisky. A cigar once in a while with a nice whisky is good too.
 
“I have tasted BenRiach in many places but the best place was in Warehouse 13 at the distillery in the splendid company of BenRiach’s Distillery Manager Stewart Buchanan. Tasting BenRiach directly from the cask is unbeatable and I can’t wait for that 1970 sherry cask to be bottled!
 
“Probably the most memorable place I’ve tasted it was when I held my big BenRiach tasting with 32 guests, including Alan McConnochie from BenRiach / GlenDronach, and 21 different BenRiach single casks here in Helsingborg. Along one of the walls we set up shelves and on them was my whole BenRiach collection plus miniatures and toy trucks with the BenRiach logos. No-one else can set up a surrounding like that!
 
Here’s a full list of all the whiskies we tasted and the tasting order.
Benriach Cask 4043, hogshead, 261 btls 33 1972 2005 49% OB
Benriach Cask 4005, hogshead, 254 btls 34 1970 2004 51,2% OB
Benriach Cask 2382, hogshead, 158 btls 38 1966 2004 50% OB
Benriach Cask 1589, hogshead, 209 btls 26 1978 2004 54,3% OB
Benriach Cask 7007, Gomez Sherry Butt, 542 btls 30 1975 2006 55% OB
Benriach Cask 10985, hogshead, 228 btls 25 1979 2005 57,5% OB
Benriach Cask 4469, Peated, Port Pipe, 649 bts 30 1976 2007 55,5% OB
Benriach Cask 316, Barrel, 240 btls 18 1986 2004 46% OB for Van Wees, Netherlands
Benriach Cask 627, hogshead, 253 btls 20 1984 2004 55% OB
Benriach Cask 2535, new wood, 238 btls 26 1980 2006 55% OB
Benriach Cask 594, hogshead, 240 btls 20 1984 2005 60% OB for Potstill, Austria
Benriach Cask 9632, Peated, butt, 663 btls 19 1986 2006 55% OB
Benriach Cask 285, Peated, barrel, 201 bottles 19 1986 2005 58,6% OB
Benriach Cask 4049, Peated, Port hhd, 294 btls 22 1984 2007 54,2% OB
Benriach Cask 76257, bourbon barrel, 251 btls 15 1993 2008 53,0% OB for Potstill, Austria
Benriach Cask 6888, Dark Rum barrel, 268 btls 15 1991 2006 54,3% OB for Sun Favourite, Taiwan
Benriach Cask 4023, virgin oak, 311 btls 14 1994 2008 53,5% OB for Germany
Benriach Cask 828, hogshead, 357 btls 11 1994 2005 46% OB for Van Wees, Netherlands
Benriach Cask 303, heavily peated 13 1994 2007 58,3% OB for Whisk-e, Japan
Benriach Cask 807, oloroso sherry butt, 700 btls 12 1994 2006 56,0% OB for MacY, Denmark
Benriach Cask 4017, Peated, Port hhd, 240 btls 13 1994 2007 56,1% OB for ALKO, Finland

 
We started with the oldest ones when our palates were still fresh. We had 6 from the 70s and 1 from the 60s. I chose to have the only 1966 released as it is the oldest vintage available. The tasting was divided into sections of 2 hours tasting, 1 hour food break, 2 hour tasting, 1 hour food break and another 2 hour tasting. After the first food break we had the 1980s and we finished the day off with the 1990s.
 
My personal favourites at the tasting were the 1970, cask 4005; the 1978, cask 1589; the 1975, cask 7007 and the 1980, cask 2535. We didn’t vote for the best one of the evening but they were all excellent.
 
If you’d like to know more about my love of BenRiach, go to http://www.magnuswhisky.com/ or email me at info@magnuswhisky.com
 
Best wishes,
 
Magnus

Picture of Magnus with some of his collection attached.

ends                                                   26 June 2009

Issued on behalf of Magnus and BenRiach by Alan Clark Communications, 01324 875454

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  1. Robert Smith says:

    Hi,

    I have a bottle of of the 1976 BenRiach bottled for the Craigellachie Hotel in 2005 from cask 8079. The bottle number is 31/144 and I am interested in selling it. Can you offer any help?

  2. admin10 says:

    I suggest you contact Scotch Whisky Auctions…

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