Benromach Peat Smoke 2006, (9-Years-Old)

Benromach Peat Smoke 2006, (9-Years-Old), 46% abv, 62 PPM. £35 in London







Benromach is officially a Speyside whisky. It is not surprisingly often confused with another similar sounding Speyside distillery, BenRiach, only 15 miles to the east. The similarities don’t end there. Benromach was founded in 1898, BenRiach just one year earlier. Both distilleries have been through various owners and been mothballed and eventually closed, never expected to be reopened. The greatest and nicest similarity however is that they both have had the incredible “mazal” to have been bought up by small independent companies, BenRiach now owned by the “BenRiach Distillery Company” and Benromach by the family run business “Gordon & McPhaill”. Both were reopened, refurbished and are run along “Boutique” or artisan style lines. (Be’ezrat Hashem long may this continue!).

Moreover, they both produce, in my opinion, some of the finest single malts in the Speyside region. BenRiach’s output however is considerably larger, almost 3 million litres a year to Benromach’s tiny half a million, making it the smallest working distillery in the Moray.

As an amusing side point, as my eldest son likes to tell me, both these distilleries, like many others, have very Hebrew sounding names. Benromach can be translated as “Son of a Spear” which fits nicely with their “cutting edge” personality (Ha Ha). The weapon known as a “Romach, was used by Pinchas at the end of parshas Balak [BaMidbar 25:7] to impale Zimri ben Salu the head of the tribe of Shimon and Kozbi bat Tzor, the princess of Midian.

BenRiach means “The Source of Aroma [or Smell]” in Hebrew and after enjoying the considerable aroma of the 16-Year-Old Ex-Bourbon cask which I reviewed recently, I can vouch for that. There are many other examples but that’s for another article perhaps….

Benromach distillery can be found on the far north east of Scotland, at the very top of the Speyside region near the village of Forres in Morayshire, lying beside the Burn of Mosset, running into the river Findhorn. The distillery sits almost on top of the A96 between Inverness and Elgin and is only four miles from the northern coast.


There is a simply delightful video produced by Benromach introducing us to them. Well worth watching before we go on…

Benromach - The Classic Speyside Single Malt Whisky



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlIFQNT_lBg





All Benromach expressions come with an age statement or give distillation date and bottling date which is even better! Their whisky is all bottled with its natural colour as it comes out the cask and is non-chilled filtered. Almost all bottlings are sold at higher than minimum abv strengths and the barley used is local 100% Scottish grain. They use a combination of brewers and distillers yeast which produces a unique taste during the fermentation process. The stills have no temperature gages, everything is done by experience, touch, feel and sight!

They only use First Fill fresh active casks. These casks are matured in traditional dunnage warehouse, stacked the traditional 3 casks high with earth floor and damp stone walls.

The video informs us that the casks lose 2.5% of the whisky to the angel’s share every year. They say that at Benromach, in the North East of Scotland, there are some very happy angels here!

Even more amazing is the fact that their prices are very reasonable, I’d say even cheap compared to other artisan distilleries such as Kilchoman, Bruichladdich, BenRiach etc. 


Benromach seems to be the ultimate in boutique/artisan distilleries. Not only do they tick all the boxes regarding chill filtering, natural colour and higher abv strength, there are ticks on the “How whisky is supposed to be made” page which don’t even have a box yet!



The question is, do all these impressive ticks translate into superior quality whisky?

They state that they are making Speyside whisky the way it was made 150 years ago with predominantly coal dried barley but with a hint of local peat. They do however produce an expression which is super peated and I mean super peated! To be precise, it’s measured at 62 PPM!. That’s higher than any other single malt anywhere in Scotland, including Islay, except of course the outrageous Bruichladdich Octomores which range from 160s to 250s PPM level!). So, I thought it would be a good idea to review this Benromach Peat Smoke and then compare it with another Speyside Peat monster, namely the Old Ballantruan.

Benromach Peat Smoke 2006.






There is no age statement on the label but it says on the bottle that it has been distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2015 which makes it a 9-Year-Old whisky.






The whisky maybe a natural colour but the box it comes in certainly isn’t! It’s a garish shiny metallic bronze with embossed lettering which will certainly get itself noticed on a shelf, even if placed amongst some of the outlandish bright blue or yellow Bruichladdich canisters. I have actually found something I don’t like about this product. The lid on top of the canister is a tacky plastic lid which pops out too easily. I really like the art work on the packaging and bottle though. It’s very stylish.






Benromach uses only the finest first fill Ex-Bourbon casks, shipped over from America fully assembled and still fresh and wet. As soon as you pop the cork, you immediately realise that this is a very unique whisky. The clean fresh aroma is something in-between Islay’s Caol Ila 12 and Lagavulin 12 but without the coastal briny notes.






On the Nose:






Nosing without water you get a lovely lemony fresh floral aroma with some tropical fruits trying to burst through the alcohol. There is also a clean smell of “Sugar Puffs” style sweet roasted honeyed smoke coming directly from the barley malt hot out of the kiln. Truly delightful!





The natural bronze golden colour cleary shows quality casks have been used and this is one of the many reasons why it is so important not to add artificial colour. You allow the quality to shine through.


Adding a few drops of water opens it up and reduces the alcohol heat. Now there is fresh peach juice, juicy yellow apples, sweet roasted honeyed barley with delicate perfumed pineapple and lemon oil. In the background there is an unmistakeable “oaked Chardonnay” style oaky yellow wine smell with a whiff of gentle and elusive smoke.

At 62 PPM peat level you would expect this to be a heavy peat monster with “in your face” peat smoke but incredibly the adjectives that keep springing to mind are “delicate”, “subtle”, “elegant” and “gentle”.

After a few minutes those fresh woody notes become very dominant so much like fresh sweet planks of pinewood. It is exactly like walking into a pinewood furniture factory with the smell of freshly cut white wood, sawdust and the sweet burnt smell of newly cut planks.

I gave the glass to my son to smell. He said it reminded him of going to buy planks of wood to strengthen our sukkah just after Yom Kippur. When we were loading the roof up with planks it started to rain and the smell of fresh wood escorted us all the way home.

Tasting Notes:





Putting the whisky in the mouth there is a delicate oily mouth fill of fresh creamy grain and natural heather honey. Sugar Puffs comes to mind again. Yes, there are tropical fruits and lemons just like the smelling notes but also creamy ripe barbequed bananas, crispy gooseberries, wet fruit cakes, a touch of vanilla custard, and the perfume of charred pine oak with yellow Chardonnay. Wait a while and you are rewarded with sweet yellow grapefruit, baked oily lemon meringue pie with smoky creamy grain in the background.

The finish leaves your taste buds tasting pine wood oil, honey, bananas and yellow apples. This is a whisky to savour over a long period of time and an experience not to be rushed.

The finish is simply a masterpiece but in my opinion, slightly too short. You are so tempted to reach for the bottle to sample it again There are just so many tastes and so varied. It is lusciously mouth-watering with white creamy honey and a combination of fresh fruits on a gorgeous fresh white-oak base, oh, and with a whisper of peat smoke.



The strange thing is that once the glass is empty, do you know what the most dominant smell is? It is of really strong peat smoke! Now that’s a clever trick!

Old Ballantruan 10-Year-Old versus the Benromach Peat Smoke.






The Benromach Peat Smoke is a heavily peated Speyside whisky and it is legitimate to try and compare it with the Tomintoul’s Old Ballantruans. I did indeed do a comparison with the Old Ballantruan 10-Year-Old and it was most enlightening.






The Old Ballantruan at 55 PPM is heavy leather, in-your-face peat smoke bonfire, roasted steaks, thick fruity wine marinade, charcoal, crunchy nuts, honey, chunky thick honey and lots more smoke.

The Benromach Peat Smoke is NOT all these things.

Everything about this Benromach 2006 (bottled 2015) displays elegance, except that is the price! (I’ll talk about this later).

It is just so so different to the other Speyside heavy peated expressions! In fact, it bears much more resemblance to the Lagavulin 8 or 12 which are also light and delicate. This Benromach though is fruitier than both these Lagavulins, I should really have reviewed the Benromach against these.

There is a lot of peat smoke there but it is really not dominant. I reckon that even someone who tells you that they can’t stand peated whiskies will enjoy this.

Conclusion
Instead what is dominant is fresh white pinewood and lots and lots of delicious fruit and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. Alas, the bottle is almost empty! Never mind. I plan to visit the distillery in November so I can Please G-d, pick up a new bottle then…….

Do I have a criticism? Well yes. Frankly, it's too cheap!



This fantastic whisky is up there with the Lagavulin 12-Year-Old, Caol-Ila 12-Year-Old and if truth be told, far better than most of the overrated post-takeover Bruichladdich expressions which are all selling at between £40-£80. This little golden bronze gem however is only £35!!!!

A lot of people might look at the price and pass it over as a cheap budget whisky which would be a terrible shame.

Comments

Popular Posts