Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2009 Batch 4

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The Distilleries Of Forres

Benromach distillery lies on the outskirts of Forres in the Speyside region of Scotland. Brought back to life by whisky bottler Gordon & MacPhail after a lengthy closure, the distillery now produces one of the most characterful malts in the region.

The Benromach Distillery Company was originally founded by Duncan McCallum and F. W. Brickman. In 1898, they built their distillery on land belonging to Alexander Edward, of Craigellachie and Benrinnes fame. At the same time, another distillery was being developed nearby, originally named Dallasmore, it would later come to be known as Dallas Dhu.

There was some opposition to the new distilleries at Forres with fear of implication for the “whisky-making establishments of the famous Spey valley”. The following poem, written in response to such concerns, was published in the Forres, Elgin and Nairn Gazette on Wednesday the 8th June, 1898.

Say you that Forres trade is dull?
”Tis only just a little lull;
Just wait until you fill your mull
With Dallasmore Benromach

What, can’t we sell our barley well?
Just wait again, and you shall tell
What prices we so soon shall spell
With Dallasmore Benromach

The “Guardian”, too, says we’ve no draff,
But here again we well can laugh;
Wait till the spirits pure you quaff
Of Dallasmore Benromach

The whisky fever’s touched us here,
And now we know there’s nought to fear.
We’ll make the rest look blooming queer
With Dallasmore Benromach

Then out upon you, poor Strathspey,
And all the rest Glenlivet way;
You’ll find it mighty hard to pay,
With Dallasmore Benromach.

Poem attributed to J. McP. G.

It took two years to get Benromach up and running and the distillery’s early years were troubled. Hindered by the Pattison Crash, US prohibition and the Great Depression sandwiched between two World Wars, production was intermittent at best and the distillery passed through the hands of several owners before eventually coming to rest with the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL). There it remained for decades, producing spirit for various blended Scotch brands.

Then came the 1980s and further problems for the whisky industry. Years of overproduction led to an excess of stock that came to be known as the Whisky Loch. Multiple distilleries were mothballed, Benromach among them. For 11 years the distillery lay silent as it was slowly stripped for parts.

An unlikely saviour came in the form of independent bottler and spirits retailer, Gordon & MacPhail, in 1993. Over the course of five years, Benromach was refurbished and new equipment installed. The new owners set out to create an old-fashioned Speyside malt that would carry the soft influence of peat smoke in its flavour profile. Production resumed in 1998 and the distillery is now producing around 700,000 litres of spirit each year.

The Whisky

The fourth batch of Benromach’s Cask Strength series is matured exclusively in first fill casks. It was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2020. In total, 29 casks were vatted together. The whisky is bottled at 57.2% abv.

Smell: Dusty casks and musty dunnage warehouses. Fragrant sherry and distant bonfire smoke. Vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce. Honey. Turmeric and cinnamon sticks. Red grapes.

Taste: Honeyed arrival with raisins and some dark chocolate in the background. Some intense cayenne pepper spice before some old, tannic oak comes through. A burst of berries just before a black pepper and wood smoke finish.

Thoughts: This is a wonderfully complex dram. It seems almost old-fashioned but in the best possible way. It tastes like the product of an old, dank dunnage warehouse. It hasn’t been overly blended or dressed up in fancy finishing casks, it’s just an excellent example of a complex spirit being aged in good quality casks. Benromach isn’t a brand I go to very often and this bottle was a bit of a stab in the dark but I now consider myself very lucky because I have hit the jackpot. It’s a phenomenal whisky. An early highlight of 2022, for sure.

Value for money: There’s a lot of Scotch whisky available to you if you’re willing to spend £60. This Benromach is as good as any of them. An absolutely outstanding dram.

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For more on Benromach visit here

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