I’m going to start this article by spoiling the outcome of the review immediately. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, many people skip straight to the verdict anyway, I know I am certainly guilty of that from time to time. I am doing this because it helps with the rest of the article, and besides, anybody who follows me on social media will probably know how I feel about this whisky already.
It’s brilliant. It’s already as good as crowned whisky of the year 2022, I know it’s not likely to be beaten, and anything that does beat it will have to be seriously special. There we go, review spoiled, you can carry on with your day now, unless you are at all interested in knowing why I feel that way.
I was lucky enough to get one bottle from the latest releases of Springbank and Kilkerran, and it was a bottle of the port cask matured 8 year old from the latter mentioned brand. It’s a nice drop. It’s super sweet, syrupy, deep and flavourful, and at £50 I have zero complaints and will enjoy it, but it is very cask driven and lacking any great character. It just can’t hold a candle to the whisky being reviewed today. Bugger! Gone and spoiled another review now! Of course, that is only one example, there are many more fantastic products which have come from those distilleries, but we need to make sure we look further afield and not get too caught up in the hype.
Anyway, that seemingly random Campbeltown segue goes some way to explaining my bemusement as to why Benromach isn’t even getting a fraction of the love that the two J&A Mitchell owned distilleries get. Then again, can I really be surprised? I’ve been guilty of being caught up in the furore myself in the past, and I love Springbank and Kilkerran too, but there’s a distillery doing that funky, lightly peated, mixed maturation thing over the other side of Scotland and doing it brilliantly, and you don’t have to battle to get hold of a bottle…yet!
You could be forgiven for thinking it is partly down to how limited production is at Springbank and Glengyle distilleries, which means there isn’t a lot to go around, but the figures show a different story. Between them, they are currently producing around 380,000 litres (280,000 Springbank/100,000 Glengyle), compared to Benromach’s 400,000 a year*. Those are current figures, both have introduced increases in production, but none more so than Benromach, who as recently as 2013, were only producing 140,000 litres per year, and before that had been producing even less.
The negative and unjustified stereotype some still associate with Speyside might not be helpful either. I’m not going to pretend I spotted Benromach out of nowhere and that I am the first person to think this way. Many more experienced palates than mine have noticed this for some time. Maybe I should be keeping this quiet as to not alert more people to the joys of their whisky, but I think it deserves a bit more kudos than it currently gets.
The whisky being reviewed is the first batch from the 2010 vintage and was bottled in 2021, which means it is either 10 or 11 years old. It comes in at a cask strength of 58.5% and is a marriage of 18 first-fill ex-bourbon and sherry casks, presented un-chillfiltered and natural colour. The malted barley used is peated to around 12ppm. Prices for this come in at anywhere between £52 and £65, so shop around.
Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2010 Batch 1 – Review
Nose : Sweet, burnt toffee is what first appears, along with old leather, leaf mulch, polished mahogony and wet soil. This is already very interesting. Then there’s the fruit. Caramalised apple tarte-tatin with vanilla crème anglais, raisins and prunes, candied orange peels and crystalised ginger. Next we get redbush tea, aromatic curry leaf, pencil shavings, espresso coffee, dark chocolate, oily rags and grassy farmyard aromas. In fact, this is very farmyard! I could nose this for days and not be bored.
Palate : Sweet toffee and blackcurrant syrup is soon overtaken by burnt honeycomb and deep, rich dark roast coffee, which adds a little bitterness that compliments that initial sweetness. There’s fruity stewed red fruits, along with apple, a decent kick of peppery spice, bbq charred meats, salty smoked bacon, tobacco and garden rubbish fire smoke. As we get towards the fairly long finish, we get the grassy farmyard notes that we had on the nose. They suddenly appear out of nowhere. It’s quite nutty and leafy too. So much about this whisky transports me to autumnal woodland walks, with damp soil and leaf litter galore. As the finish continues it becomes creamy and the smoke reveals itself further, along with toffee apple, metal polish, and a pinch of salt.
Conclusions : This is no easy-sipper. This requires time and patience to unlock everything that hides beneath the various layers. It continues to open up in the glass as it sits, and from my time with the bottle, i’d say it also benefits from the being open and oxidising for a couple of weeks. A small drop of water doesn’t go amiss either to unlock its potential, although it is still very drinkable at cask strength. I’m sure I will come across more new notes when I next come to sit down with it, such has been the experience with it so far.
You can pick this up for £55, which for a 10-11 year old cask strength whisky is very fair and has to be factored into the score. The simple fact is, I don’t believe I have come across anything better at that price point. It’s fruity, it’s dirty, it’s funky, it’s complex, and it’s wonderful. Just through blind refusal to give anything a perfect 10 (nothing is perfect, right?) it gets the highest score I have given a whisky to date, and am likely to for some time. I know I am leaving myself barely any wriggle room here, but I just don’t care. I have spent enough time with this bottle to know that to my nose and palate, it is utterly superb.
Score : 9.5/10
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
ABV : 58.5%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation : 18 x First fill Ex-Bourbon and Sherry casks
Region : Speyside
Colour : Amber
*Figures sourced from the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2022