We provide the first evidence of exclusive benzyl alcohol production in the continuous gas phase hydrogenation of benzaldehyde (T=393 K; P = 1 atm) over Au/Al2O3, where activity was largely maintained for up to 15 h on-stream. XRD and DRS UV-vis have established the presence of metallic Au post temperature programmed reduction to 473 K, with a surface area weighted mean Au particle size (from TEM analysis) of 7.9 nm. Under the same reaction conditions. Ni/Al2O3 and Pd/Al2O3 were non-selective, generating toluene as the principal product via hydrogenolysis of benzaldehyde and exhibiting an appreciable temporal loss of activity. The results establish Au/Al2O3 as a promising catalyst for the production of benzyl alcohol. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.