It has been a while since I’ve posted on here, but I am going to try and be more regular (and write more blogs). So here is my second monthly article published in the Northern Scot…..
A good chinwag and a special Speyside malt
My recent trip to Benromach was more a right good chinwag with a mate rather than a distillery tour. Wandering around the site and talking about all things distilling with Keith (the site manager) was a real treat for me, and being a Forres boy I was delighted that my request for a visit and a few samples was accepted.
On the opposite side of the A96 from another of my great passions (i.e. Forres Mechanics), Benromach is a distillery that is really easy to find. The grounds and buildings are a delight and a warm welcome awaits you in the visitor centre. The company have plans for extending the centre, and although it is currently rather small it is very pleasant.
Since being “rescued” and reopened by Gordon and MacPhail, the distillers at Benromach have had the task of creating a whisky with what they call a “pre-1960s Speyside character”. To achieve this they routinely use medium peated malt, thus making them rather different from most Speyside distilleries. This results in a smoky spirit balanced with sweetness and flavours that compliment the peat to great effect.
You can stand at one point in the distillery production area and see the mashtun, underback, washbacks and stills; and with big Michael (one of the distillers) wandering about there is not a lot of room left in there. This is a “small” operation that results in some “big” whiskies.
Tradition and quality are the buzzwords here, but not just buzzwords, everyone on site has this ethos built into them. The investment in traditional warehousing and the use of brewer’s yeast in the long fermentations speaks to me of tradition. The sole use of first fill casks speaks to me of quality.
So what about the whisky? Well, the various expressions are quite different but all rather special. I love the packaging around the product and the marketing on their literature and website; I was particularly taken by the caricatures of the staff.
But all this nice marketing would be pointless if the product itself was not up to standard.
I tried four of their current expressions; the Classic 10 year old, the Organic, the Peat Smoke and the recently launched cask strength 100 Proof. They were all nice, with the hint of peat in the Classic 10 year old and the 100 Proof making them rather different and interesting. I have to be honest though and say if I wanted a really peaty whisky, as the Peat Smoke is, I would personally stick to my island favourites.
The best by far in my opinion is the Organic; it was a gem of a single malt, albeit a slightly unusual one. I have to admit and say that it is not the organic credentials that attract me to this expression, it is the aroma and flavour that make it stand out. The colour was golden brown, a lovely colour developed from the virgin oak casks it was matured in. When nosed I detected emulsion paint, wet leaves, fresh fruit and vanilla. A strange combination I know, but an absolute delight on the nose. It was sweet and fresh and fruity; it then tasted amazing! The vanilla and fruitiness was still evident, with more than a hint of peach. There was also a wee touch of dark chocolate hitting the taste buds. The mouth feel was quite thin, but not disappointing, as the finish was long and satisfying. I enjoyed this expression so much it was the first dram I ordered on a recent night out in Edinburgh!
Benromach is a wonderful wee distillery, with some wonderful products, so get yourself along to Forres and have a visit some time soon.
Recommendation of the Month
I did love the Organic, however my recommendation of the month is the Benromach Classic 10 year old. A fruity and sweet Speyside, with more than a hint of peat, it is different from most other malts of the region. At just under £34 it can be bought at the distillery and at Gordon and MacPhail in town.