Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Review - Benromach 20th Anniversary Bottling

This 20th Anniversary Bottling is a special limited edition single malt that celebrates the refurbishment and re-opening of the Benromach distillery in 1998. It was created by Keith Cruickshank, who has been working there since the re-start and who has been Distillery Manager since 2000. The whisky is made from spirit that was some of the first to be distilled after production began in 1998. This has then been matured in first fill oak casks in the dunnage warehouses at the distillery on the outskirts of Forres.

The Benromach distillery was founded in 1898 and built next to the new Aberdeen-Inverness railway line. It remains one of the smallest operating in the Speyside region and was one of the last designed by the renowned Victorian distillery architect Charles Doig. It was originally called Forres Distillery and only became known as Benromach in 1919, taking the name from the nearby Romach Hills. Benromach is currently owned by independent bottling company Gordon & MacPhail and they renovated it after a period of closure and re-opened it in 1998. The current annual production is 500,000 litres, although this will increase with a planned expansion.

"When we began distilling again in 1998, we wanted to recreate the unique Speyside whisky taste that historically had a touch of smoke. The 20th Anniversary Bottling gives Benromach lovers around the world the chance to own and taste a moment in time from the distillery’s rich history." 
Keith Cruickshank. 

There are just 3,000 bottles of the 20th Anniversary Bottling and these will be available in selected markets worldwide. 400 of these will be available at the distillery's visitor centre shop. It is bottled at the natural cask strength of 56.2% ABV and costs £299 each.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an immediate malty hit to it. This is followed by delicious aromas of toffee, caramel and white chocolate. Then comes an increasing fruitiness - think of tropical fruits such as peach, apricot and over ripe pineapple. Underneath is a distinct earthy and dusty spiciness (imagine cocoa powder, cinnamon, mace and a whiff of savoury peat smoke).

On the palate this whisky has an initial flavour of stewed apples combined with toffee, caramel and honeycomb. This develops to bring in the tropical fruit elements evident on the nose (especially the peach), although these are slightly more understated than before. This sweetness is underpinned by a robust bittersweet maltiness and that dusty spiciness from the nose - again think of cinnamon and mace but add in white pepper, gingerbread and all-spice too.  Subtle notes of white chocolate and a pinch of cocoa powder add further depth, as does a distant whiff of dried cigar leaf and gentle earthy peat smoke.

The finish is long and powerful, especially once the sweetness and fruitiness begin to fade. This leaves a wonderfully warming feel in the mouth, plus a touch of dryness. The dried and powdered spices linger, while the peat smoke is more prominent than at any other time. Late chocolate and malt rounds this off beautifully.

What's the verdict?
This whisky from Benromach seems a fitting tribute to the 20 year anniversary and all who have worked there during that time. It is a sublime whisky that shows robustness and subtlety at the same time. It also shows how Benromach has developed over an increased time period than many of their regular releases and with sympathetic casking. The quality shines through. We would highly recommend getting a bottle of this liquid history before it has sold out and gone forever. A truly delicious and sumptuous single malt.