About the Distillery
Something new from one of our oldest friends. We’ve featured a lot of Gordon and MacPahil’s independent bottlings over the years. We’ve also featured a few from their own distillery – Benromach. This month we’ll sample another from the smallest distillery in Speyside – the Benromach 15yo.
The Benromach distillery was completely rebuilt by Gordon and MacPhail starting in 1993. The rebirth was completed in 1998, 100 years after it was first built. Benromach distillery considers itself a ‘ curious irony’ in that they (Gordon & MacPhail) deliberately refitted and modernised the distillery to allow them to stay ‘true’ to the old methods, but achieve modern standards of operating efficiency.
Benromach’s mission is to stay traditional to the “old style” of Speyside single malt whiskies. This means such things as using only first fill casks, using a traditional mix of brewer’s and distiller’s yeast and regulating and controlling the distillation completely by hand and knowledgeable dead-reckoning (no computers involved at all!). They also still use spring water from the Romach hills to produce their whiskies – unusual in these modern times.
Another point of difference between Benromach and most other Speyside distilleries is the use of lightly peated barley. Another nod to the ‘old ways’ when distilleries malted their own barley. Speyside distilleries traditionally used a mix of coal and (minimal) peat to dry their malted barley – imparting a very mild smokiness to the malt. Towards the late 60’s this ‘in house’ malting was replaced by commercial malting houses that supplied most distilleries. The ‘Speyside Style’ was subtly changed at this point with distillers in the region favoring the completely unpeated malts from the suppliers. Benromach do ‘doff their hat’ to the traditoonal Speyside ways by specifying a very light peat in their malt. The end result is a very mild smoke influence which perfeclty compliments the otherwise fruity and floral Speyside characteristics from the first fill casks.
When the Benromach 15yo is opened, a Carmel aroma is first released, with sultana’s and a gentle campfire smokiness.
The palate is met with vanilla from the charred American Oak barrels, and the barley sugar characteristic of Speyside whiskies. The second flavour is what really excites! It is an unusual and unique flavour explosion of Olorosso sherry soaked in raisins and orange peel. It reminds me of Billy Kwong’s Duck in Citrus Sauce, that has lime juice, cinnamon, orange peel and star anise.
The smokiness really comes through on the finish with a gentle drying after taste to compliment and temper the flavours that have just exploded in the mouth.
This whisky is intriguing. It is like a conversation with a fascinating new friend that you just want to keep listening too.
Well done Benromach 15yo. Well done Gordon & MacPhail. Well done Scotland!
Bottlers Tasting Notes
Pour yourself a dram of Benromach 15 Years Old. Lift it to the light and note the especially golden amber colour, thanks to the long maturation in sherry and bourbon casks. Now swill it around your glass and take a few little inhalations to savour the AROMA WITHOUT WATER… there’s a lot going on… beautifully balanced sherry aromas with vanilla pod, zesty orange and spicy ginger complemented by delicate chamomile and menthol notes. Now sip your dram, roll the whisky around your mouth and enjoy the TASTE WITHOUT WATER… there’s luscious, rich fruit cake with stewed plum, red apple skin and the sharp edge of kiwi fruit. Next, take in the AROMA WITH WATER… the whisky shifts into another gear with subtle hints of cocoa, nutmeg and cinnamon giving way to sweet honey notes and hints of bonfire embers. Add a drop or two of water to release the full TASTE WITH WATER… it’s a very satisfying palate with traces of charred oak complementing sweet tangerine, plum and nectarines… completed by a gorgeous touch of milk chocolate.