About the Distillery
Now this months whisky is a sweet peat treat. But wait.. WAIT.. – for those who “don’t like peat” – this is a much different peated whisky than you’ve probably tried. So what makes the Benromach Peat Smoke different? Well, the type of peat used makes a huge difference. Highland peat (used by Benromach) differs greatly from Islay peat. Let’s explore how and why.
When we think of peated whiskies we usually think of that magical Scottish island – Islay. The distilleries there are well known for their mostly strongly peated whiskies which have a very distinct flavour profile. Descriptions of the Islay whiskies can often feature iodine, bandaid, burning rubber, seawater. This flavour profile is not for everyone and stems in a big way from the Islay peat used in the drying process – harvested on the island itself.
To understand peat you have to know where it comes from. It is really many years of decayed vegetation, mostly heather. On Islay that means that the heather is wind swept and sea sprayed. That ‘seaside influence’ carries into the heather, into the peat and eventually into the whisky. You can notice it as ‘iodiney’ flavours and saltyness. That happens when the barley is dried using this peat.
Now is it also important to note that many years ago, nearly all Scottish whisky was peated. It was the only fuel readily available to dry out the malted barley. What changed this was the indus-trial revolution in the UK. Underground coal mining in Wales, North of England and Scotland pro-vided an easier source of fuel to dry the barley and heat the stills. Coupled with a growing railway network to transport it around the country.
So, most of the mainland distilleries stopped using peat. However, Islay has abundant peat and transport of coal by ferry was expensive. They kept peating their whisky (using mainly peat from Islay) and they became rightly famous for that.
What has that got to do with the Speyside whisky on offer this month. Well there is now a growing trend in many mainland distilleries to return to producing peated whisky to varying degrees.
The Benromach Peat Smoke is a great example, it uses Highland peat, harvested from peat bogs which lay far away from the influence of the sea. Burning this peat to dry the barley results in a rich, sweet smoke, more reminiscent of pipe tobacco and even smoked or barbecued meat than it’s salty Islay cousin. No Iodine!
The Benromach Peat Smoke expression displays Benromach’s signature hint of honey, playing beautifully with the more subtle, warming smoke of the Highland peat. If you’ve been turned off peat, this one might surprise you, and if you’ve always loved that smoky flavour rest easy in the knowledge that this dram has been heavily peated.
Tormore 13yo - our thoughts
Vanilla sweetness on the nose, but there is an underlying musty old-leather. On the palate it’s sweet vanilla again, strawberries and cream lolly with an earthy smokey-ness, almost a musty quality. A medium, slightly drying finish with some pepper on the tongue and a lingering hint of smoldering campfire in the distance.
Bottlers Tasting Notes
A wonderfully fruity and smoky single malt whisky, with no medicinal undertone.
Aroma without water: sweet vanilla, honey and cured meat aromas, hints of apricot and lemon combining with a beautiful subtle tobacco note.
Taste without water: there’s cracked pepper with sweet strawberry and orange flavours, a delicate hint of aniseed; combined with a lingering edge of bonfire embers.
Aroma with water: the delicate smokiness complements lemon, honey and vanilla aromas with sweet hints of apricot and sugared almonds developing on the tongue.
Taste with water: slow cooked apple, pear and tangy grapefruit give way to a trace of cocoa powder and an absolutely gorgeous edge of lingering cigars.