Until Ballindalloch Distillery was established in 2014, Benromach was Speyside’s smallest distillery. Independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail owns Benromach, having bought it in 1993. It seems like every independent bottler is now opening their own distillery, but for G&M, this is not a new trend. In fact, G&M were in a bidding war for Strathisla in 1950, but lost out to Chivas Bros., who turned Strathisla’s picturesque settings into Chivas’ blend spiritual home, all the while G&M remained Strathisla’s “official bottler”. Thus, it took G&M over four decades to get a distillery.
On an aside, I’ll mention that between 1953 and 1993, the distillery was owned by DCL. It was one of the casualties of the disastrous 1983, but luckily, mothballed, and while the stills were removed, the distillery itself was left fully intact, and was thus available for sale to G&M a decade later, reopening in 1998. Interestingly, that same year there was a single 19 year old Benromach expression bottled in the Rare Malts Selection, strangely making the newly formed Diageo an independent bottler for a G&M distillery. This expression was a 1978 vintage, bottled at 63.8% ABV. This is the only bottling of Benromach in the RMS.
2014 saw a revamping of the core range to include the 5 year old, two 10 year old expressions – one of them presented at cask strength (100 British proof), and the brand new 15 years old. This four part series will review the core range. In addition, the distillery produces the contrasts series whick includes two wood finishes, as well as an organic and a heavily peated expressions. In addition, there is a 30 year old, as well as a 1969 (yes, my birth year) and a 1976.
The 5 year old replaced the NAS Benromach Traditional, and is made of 80% ex bourbon casks with 20% sherry cask matured whisky.
Benromach 5 Years Old (40% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Straw colored with thin legs. It looks rather viscous despite being only 40%.
Nose: Starts out with new make and malt with a vegetal/grassy note. Some honey appears after a few minutes in the glass. Light spice with clove buds and sweet citrus with touches of lemon. Within about ten minutes, the new make is completely gone, and a new slightly sour note appears, with a distant whiff of smoke.
Palate: Peaty, spicy and malty all at once. Then you get the pepper and the fresh white bread toast. There’s almost no sweetness at first, then you get some faint honey amid the dominant peat.
Linger: Smoky and peppery on the tongue, with some spice high up in the gullet. Tingly on the tongue with some citrus rind bitterness. This may be young, but the linger is absolutely lovely!
If ever there was a whisky to stick it to the NAS movement, this is the one.
Despite being young, this is a really good dram, and at £26, provides great value for the money. And, I’m surprising myself here, actually presents well at 40%.
If it’s well made, young whisky can be good, and you can both tell consumers the truth and sell it at a fair price, without hiding behind a marketing heavy label.
Shane, thanks for sharing this dram, it’s a wonderful summer tipple!