Thursday, December 10, 2009
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
When I was in Scotland in July I was in touch with Ian Chapman at Benromach and after a short volley of emails he very kindly invited me to see their distillery. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Ian, David Urquhart and distillery manager Keith Cruickshank.
It is a very unassuming place, and my hosts suited it perfectly. With just two distillers and only 200,000 litres produced per year, Benromach is the smallest Speyside distillery. After a walk around the distillery and warehouses at a relaxed-pace the lads sat me down for a dram, a coffee, and to willingly subject themselves to my interrogations.
They then presented me with the TOP SECRET box that a few whisky writers and bloggers have mentioned and explained elsewhere online. They were launching their first Benromach 10 year old, that is, the first ten year old whisky made entirely of whisky produced under their ownership and were investing in marketing the spirit in a clever and fun way. The whisky was matured for 9 years in a mixture of ex-bourbon (80%) and ex-sherry (20%) and then spent an additional year in sherry butts.
Gordon & Macphail (the Urquhart family) bought Benromach in 1998, a distillery that had been mothballed in 1993. It was reported recently that G&M's profits were halved last year over the previous. Nonethless, the company has increased investment at Benromach and now it is our responisbility to go out and support them. So do it.
To find out which bottle you want to go buy, see all past Benromach posts HERE.
Rich, weighty, and warming with peat. Wet, water-logged soil sweetened with toffee, vanilla, and honey.
Luscious body, wood, malt, grapes, tobacco, apricots, dried apples, smoke, butterscotch... A mouthful of flavours. Stewed carrots, oatmeal, figs, a tannic grip, pine, carob, asparagus... a very complex array of flavours beautifully balanced.
A complex mixture of the whisky flavour wheel: sweet, earthy ,oily, woody, with the estery notes you'd expect from Speyside and the phenolic ones you might not. The Urquharts will proudly remind you that you can find nothing like the Benromach distillery in Speyside and, if true, this dram provides the most appropriate representation of that fact. A truly peerless dram.
I have to say that as a 10 year old Speysider, I don't think this has any parallels and would destroy its category at international spirits awards events (if the judges can fight the urge to continually define Speysiders as sweet, light, and floral whiskies). They can be so much more, they have been so much more, and they ARE so much more.
One of the best new releases, hell, one of the best whiskies, I have had the pleasure of drinking this year. Other opinions HERE and HERE.
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