Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review - Benromach Organic

The Organic is from the small independently owned distillery of Benromach. When it was originally launched back in 2006, it was the first single malt on the market to be fully certified as organic by the UK Soil Association.  The whisky continues to meet their rigorous standards regarding the growing of ingredients (organic barley, local spring water and yeast), the whisky making process and the maturation in untreated virgin American oak casks.  Benromach is the real pioneer of organic Scotch whisky, having started production around the millenium. 

Benromach is the smallest working distillery in the Speyside region and is located on the outskirts of the town of Forres. Only three people are employed there and the current annual production capacity is just 500,000 litres per year. It was founded in 1898 under the name of Forres Distillery and was designed by renowned distillery architect Charles Doig. It became known as Benromach in 1919 and the current owners are Gordon & MacPhail, the leading independent bottling company, who are based in nearby Elgin. They took control of Benromach in 1993 and fully renovated the distillery. It had been closed for the previous 10 years and was re-opened by Prince Charles in 1998.

The visitor centre at Benromach

This current batch of Benromach Organic was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2014.  It is released at 43% ABV and is available through selected specialist whisky retailers.  A bottle should be in the £38-40 range.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is vibrant and expressive.  There are initial aromas of freshly sawn oak, wood spices (especially cinnamon), malty cereals and plenty of vanilla.  Underneath are further aromas of green fruit (think of crisp apples), honey, butterscotch and candied peel - this is most reminiscent of lemon, with a hint of orange.

On the palate there is an intriguing mouth feel - this switches from soft and creamy to spiky and peppery (especially white pepper) and then back again.  As everything settles it is easier to determine the characteristics.  The soft creaminess is driven by notes of vanilla, honey and coconut.  The vibrancy is led by the relatively intense woodiness, which adds a dryness and complexity.  There is a pleasant further layer of sweetness that is very butterscotch-like with a hint of ripe tropical fruits (think of pineapple and banana in particular) and white chocolate.  The tangy candied citrus evident on the nose develops later and is now 100% lemon.

This lemony note carries through to the finish and lingers longest next to the increasingly hefty wood spices.  This gives a lovely warming, tangy and dry finish that grips the taste buds, especially once the sweeter characteristics have faded.

What's the verdict?
The Benromach Organic is a delicious whisky and one that is testament to those that pioneered its production so long ago when organic produce was looked upon more sceptically.  The balance and complexity achieved is excellent and demonstrates a sympathetic use of virgin oak casks, which can be very active and quickly overpower a whisky.  It also offers good value for money.  A superb drink and well worth searching out.