Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review - Benromach 35 years old

This 35 years old single malt is the latest limited edition release from the multi award winning distillery of Benromach.  It is said to be one of the oldest ever bottlings from the Speyside distillery.  The whisky was distilled and casked in the early 1980s before current owners Gordon & MacPhail took control, and is taken from some of the rarest casks that they inherited. The 35 years old has been matured in first fill ex-sherry casks and is housed in a specially designed decanter style bottle and a wooden presentation casket, both decorated with copper detail.

Benromach is the smallest distillery currently in operation in the Speyside region.  It 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 one of the last to be designed by renowned distillery architect Charles Doig.

It became known as Benromach in 1919, taking the name from the nearby Romach Hills.  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 over a five year period. It had been closed for the previous 10 years and was re-opened by Prince Charles in 1998. 

"Very few casks remain from this time period. Benromach today is created respecting these traditional working practices of yesteryear."
Keith Cruickshank - Distillery Manager, Benromach.

The 35 years old is bottled at 43% ABV. It will be available shortly from selected specialist whisky retailers globally and the recommended price is £425 per bottle. No details of numbers have been supplied.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden amber and the nose has a rich and luxurious set of aromas - think of a mix of burnt caramel, bitter candied oranges, rum and raisin ice cream, stewed apricots and waxy furniture polish.  Further hints of liquorice, milk chocolate, cinnamon, mace and distant soft smoke add extra depth.

On the palate this whisky has a velvety and viscous feel.  It is a mix of the candied orange and soft peat smoke that hit first, with the smoke seeming much more prominent than on the nose and having a hint of cigar tobacco to it.  This is a delicious combination.  After this comes notes of burnt caramel with a hint of black treacle, followed by golden syrup and a medley of stewed fruits - imagine apples, apricots and pineapple especially.  This gives a slight tropical feel.  Underneath is a distinct malted cereal note and this develops over time, along with a lovely rich chocolate characteristics that turns more cocoa-like towards the finish.  Hints of eucalyptus, cinnamon, cloves and honey give further complexity.

The finish is slightly shorter than expected given the richness and depth of the nose and palate.  The savoury notes last longest, especially the burnt caramel and gentle earthy peat smoke, with the sweet and fruity characteristics seem to fade away too soon.  The finale comes with a hit of bitter dried orange and an intense woodiness.

What's the verdict?
This Benromach 35 years old is a lovely and easy drinking whisky that has plenty of character.  We have always had a soft spot for the distillery ever since we visited it and tasted their whiskies for the first time.  It has a wonderful mix of elements to create a delicious flavour profile.  The aroma of the nose is particularly beautiful.

However at this price level and age profile this should go without saying.  The shortness of the finish nags at us a little and we feel a slightly higher ABV (not necessarily cask strength but something in the region of 46-48%) may have added extra length and weight to this.  That said, it is priced well against similar products, is enjoyable and should please the growing number of Benromach fans.

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