So Benromach. Another Speyside, right? Something I’ve missed, some would say, and others would point out one that I haven’t reviewed compared to various Islays, or even Macallan or Glenmorangie or even Highland Park.
So why is that? It’s certainly not due to Gordon & MacPhail being the owners, nor it being new (was founded in 1898) even though the distillery was only brought back in 1997 so it could be in working order.
And it’s not because this is some distillery that’s used in a bunch of blends and only pops up in independent bottlings. There’s quite a few official bottlings (OB if ya nasty).
So why haven’t I had more Benromach? Probably due to being a peat head, probably due to the fact that while it’s been going strong now for 24 years, they didn’t have the loads of whisky like Bruichladdich to flood the market. Thus I don’t have it normally, and when I have the chance, I don’t go for it.
Today we try to change that. We have a peated version and a single cask. Let’s see what Benromach is bringing out, shall we?
Benromach Peat Smoke 2010 is an 8-year-old peated malt aged in a first fill sherry hogshead. It’s not a single cask (unless they’ve created the largest single cask ever), so we have something vatted (thus they had multiple whiskies to make this the flavours they like).
Peated Speyside? As an Ardmore fan, I’m all set. Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: $90 (USD)
Cask type 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead
Number of bottles 6,500
Colour: 2.5Y 7/8
Nose: Cocoa, raspberry, peat, brine, cardamom A long time ago Terry’s Chocolate Orange brought out a raspberry version. And because it didn’t taste like being beaten to death by a pseudo medication, they discontinued it.
The nose on this starts with that. Yes, there’s some orange, and eventually the cocoa richness comes back to peat, however I’m digging the nose. Sherry hasn’t taken over, peat’s there, and man, Terry’s, seriously, bring back the Raspberry orange.
Taste: Ginger, cardamom, custard, anise, grape, molasses
Spice, more spice, some custard, and then spice.
Yes, there’s some sugar/fruit, and some darker sugar notes, but it’s spice. Spice to the heavens. If they were still around, the Dutch East India company would be breaking into my house and taking over this whisky. And then committing terrible atrocities, because that’s what they did.
Finish: Orange, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa
Orange (BOO!), spice, more spice, and nice cocoa. It finishes like the bad Terry’s orange, and for that I’m sad.
Conclusion: Very spice heavy. There’s little balance. So there’s a few things that I didn’t mind: I like spices (without wiping out cultures), the fruit mixes well, and there’s a lovely custard note.
On the other hand I have a hard time aligning with some of the balance. If this was a single cask, perhaps I’d say “It needs more time”. It’s 8-years-old after all. However there’s a bunch of casks going on here. Was every single one spice forward? If that’s the case, why was it released?
So while I like this, I think given the cask strength peated offerings out there, there’s better to pick from. Maybe next time.
Benromach 13 2007 Single Cask is a different tact than above. Some would say it’s silly to pair these up! I mean, this has 5 years on the above whisky, isn’t peated, and was aged in a first-fill ex-Bourbon cask.
But it’s still Benromach, and devoz handed me a sample, so I gots to try it at the same time. Let’s see what happens when the almost opposite to the above happens, shall we?
Price: $145 CAD
Cask type: First Fill ex-Bourbon Barrel
Cask # 134
Total Outturn: 221 bottles
Colour: 7.5Y 9/8
Nose: Custard, peach, heather, vanilla, brown sugar
More of that custard. In one of those rare, rare moments, I’m wondering if that’s part of the spirit, and will immediately forget it by the next time I have to do a mystery.
Lots of cask influence this time: Vanilla is everywhere. But not overly sweet (to me, mister honey blood).
Taste: Peach, basil, rosemary, vanilla
The taste isn’t really following up on the nose. Yes, it’s similar and stays consistent, but there’s less of the floral aspect, and it’s a little less sweet, leaving the vanilla to bust through the wall like it’s serving you red flavoured sugar.
Finish: Vanilla, lemon, Twizzlers, dust, orange
Finish has some more acidity to it, and some musty/earthy notes where the floral aspect was.
And yes, the strong vanilla is still there, just in case you were worried.
Conclusion: Sweet and earthy, works for a nice day to day drink. You may not enjoy the sheer amount of cask influence or sweetness, so if that’s not your jam, skip it. That said I never felt like the cask overwhelmed the whisky.
If I had to point out a blindspot, it’s the taste. It gets really simple and light at that point. In a whisky that’s showing off vanilla and sweetness and floral elements it felt like having to buy something cheap so you can buy something expensive: It’s just tagging along. Try this one if you have a chance, as it’s nice to sip on.
Scotch reviews #1390-1, Speyside review #387-8, Whisky Network reviews #2066-7