Launched in 2015 Benromach 15 year old has been matured in a higher proportion of ex-sherry casks than its younger 10 year old sibling – but, like all whisky produced at Benromach since Gordon & MacPhail took the reins in 1993, it’s produced using only first fill barrels. Similarly to Highlander Old Pulteney, the neck of the bottle has been shaped like the distillery stills.
Nose: Speyside meets Campbeltown – toffee apples, orange peels, honey and beeswax vs. gentle but unclean ashy smoke, surface cleaner and used oil. More overtly sherried than the 10 year old, this delivers stewed red berries, dusty wood cellars as well as some slightly tropicalness from pineapple. Oatmeal, tanned leather, lemon drop sweets and bitter chocolate all provide additional nuances.
Taste: A silky arrival that walks a slightly different path to the nose – toffee apples, orange peels, leather (and leather polish) and walnuts get us started, then things go quite greenhouse with pronounced vegetables – boiled carrots and cauliflower. Bitter spicing is introduced by both pepper and, particularly pronounced anise. In the back palate, things become increasingly herbal – reeds, flax and strong eucalyptus. The smoke here is less discernible than on the nose, and comes across more as a melange of petrol fumes and rusted metal dust. Somewhat surprisingly given this eclectic list everything works together rather well.
Finish: Medium to long, sherried with chocolate, herbal with fresh cut grass.
Benromach 15 year old has high complexity, solid balance and a particularly diverse range of flavours which all work together in harmony whilst maintaining the distillery’s traditional spirit character. The additional aging, allows more of the sherried elements to shine here, and likewise reduces the impact of peat smoke. Multifaceted and engaging, but comparisons to the excellent 10 year old are inevitable - this one is 50% older, but it’s also not far off 50% more expensive (around £53 currently). Whether it’s also 50% better is going to be entirely down to penchants of the imbiber.