The building of Benromach commenced in 1898 but it wasn’t until 1900 that spirit was first produced. Like many of it’s peers it has passed through the hands of many different owners over the years and also suffered more than a few periods of closure. The most recent of these came when DCL (now Diageo) decided to close down proceedings in 1983 in reaction to a growing crisis in the world of scotch whisky.
Over the years scotch whisky has experienced fluctuating periods of boom and bust and one such boom period came to an end in the 1980’s as sales fell drastically and producers who had been churning out spirit as fast as they could suddenly found themselves with warehouses full of the stuff and no-one to sell it too. This became known as The Whisky Loch. For small independent companies this downturn in sales could be fatal but for a giant like DCL there was no such fear. They simply closed down the facilities they felt were surplus to requirements. Some of them, like Port Ellen and Brora were never to be seen again but others, like Benromach weren’t dead yet.
In 1993, Benromach was bought by Gordon & MacPhail, the well established independent bottler from Elgin in speyside. They put plans in place to get the distillery back to producing what they felt was a ‘classic’ speyside single malt. Today the use of peated barley has all but disappeared in Speyside but it would once have been much more common and Gordon & MacPhail thought it important that Benromach should maintain this smokey element. They also felt it important to use a mix of Brewer’s Yeast and Distiller’s Yeast in the fermentation process to add some extra fruity flavours – something else which used to be very common but has become a rare occurrence because Distiller’s Yeast offers good results for producers chasing greater yield and efficiency.
Of course each and every distillery will have their own particular reasons why they think they stand out from their competitors and to an extent much of this information is unimportant – what really matters is the liquid in the bottle. Which brings me neatly onto the review. I’m going to be talking about the 10 year old, which along with the 100 proof and 15 year old make up the ‘classic benromach’ range.
On the nose there’s Vanilla and Pouring Cream with Berries, Biscuit and Barley with gentle Bonfire Smoke weaving throughout. The palate meanwhile brings Dark Chocolate, Berries, Pepper and Spice and more of that subtle Smoke influence.
The Scores: About the scoring system…
Smell: 17 / 20. Good complexity and balance, with a lot of enticing aroma’s that seem to multiply the longer you spend with it.
Taste: 16.5 / 20. Decent weight and good flavour that develops and evolves over time.
Value for Money: 9 / 10. Comes in around £35 in the UK and at that price it really can’t be faulted.
Overall: 42.5 / 50. Gordon & MacPhail deserve credit for the way they’ve gone about things at Benromach and most of all for the interesting, characterful malt that they’re producing. A good example of what an affordable, 10 year old malt can offer.