I visited Benromach last year with a motley crew from Dramboree. The original distillery tour focussed around Rothes had proved tricky to arrange, so some last minute jiggery-pokery by the organisers has us bused over to Forres, just west of Elgin for an exciting alternative that I’d not had the pleasure of visiting before. The Gordon & MacPhail owned distillery puts on a good show (let alone dealing with a bus load of 40 whisky enthusiasts who’d had a peaty breakfast courtesy of Dave Worthington from Boutique-y) with their tastings and offer a truly thought-provoking deconstruction of their excellent 10 year old malt.
You can visit the distillery for a tasting any time you like (assuming they’re open of course). If you do, I heartily recommend you see if there is an exclusive single cask bottling available. At the end of our deconstructed tasting we were brought a sample of the current exclusive cask at the time – a 2010 7 year old drawn from a 1st fill sherry hogshead. Bottled at 61%, this youthful whisky immediately impressed me, and I walked out of the distillery one bottle richer and around £60 poorer. I recently opened the bottle for a sherry-led tasting I was organising, so took the opportunity to take some notes…
Nose: Rich and fresh. Red berries (particularly raspberries), blackcurrants and an assortment of candied peels provide a lively fruity opener. These are followed by chocolate, raisins, home baked biscuits and some nuttiness. In the background there’s both maltiness and some very natural earthiness – wet leaves and waterlogged wood. The addition of water really helps define the fruit element of this whisky, bringing out strawberries in particular. It also heightens natural sugars and adds some pastry aromas.
Taste: By the power of Greyskull – that’s a big and brassy arrival. Huge, fruits, sugars and pepper take a moment to recover from. Once calmed, the development is quite expansive, delivering red berries and demerara sugars then swiftly moving into chocolate cake and tobacco. Once your palate has got to grips with those, a huge wave of spiciness takes grip – strong black pepper and chilli – growing in intensity across the palate. Once this subsides, background flavours of wood char and damp soil earthiness come through nicely. By golly this needs some water – so let’s add some: Now, a lot calmer and more reserved – but no less expressive. Fruits are juicy and ripe, and we start to get some cask influence coming through – vanilla, sappy wood and some ginger. The whisky is also a lot more naturally malty when diluted down a touch.
Finish: Medium to long and highly spicy – pepper and a wee touch of salt in the tail.
This Benromach is quite the experience. Whilst it certainly belies its 7 years of age, it does deliver quite hotly at 61% ABV. This brings a wealth of flavours, but likewise proved a bit too much for my palate all at once. Fortunately, it takes water extremely well, offering some lovely fruity and cask-driven notes under that mighty initial arrival. Eventful, playful and powerful – and, like most Benromach distillery exclusives, very keenly priced – and with a nice wooden box too.