Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Review - Benromach 50 years old

This whisky is the oldest ever single malt release from the small Speyside distillery of Benromach. The Benromach 50 years old is taken from a rare single re-fill ex-Oloroso sherry hogshead cask (Cask #2003). This was distilled and filled in 1969, and has been maturing in a dunnage warehouse at Benromach ever since. The antique cask was hand selected by Keith Cruikshank, who has been the Distillery Manager since 2000, and it has yielded just 125 bottles. These will be available in selected specialist whisky retailers and other high-end stores worldwide.

Benromach was founded in 1898 and built next to the Aberdeen-Inverness railway line in Forres. 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 built as Forres Distillery and became Benromach in 1919, taking the name from the nearby Romach Hills. Benromach is currently owned by Gordon & MacPhail and they renovated it after a period of closure, re-opening in 1998. The current annual production is 500,000 litres, although this will increase with a planned expansion.

The Benromach 50 years old is bottled at the natural cask strength of 44.6% ABV and is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It is presented in a bespoke decanter and wooden casket with a price of £8,000/ €9,000/ $10,000 US each.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep mahogany brown and the nose is rich and expressive. Initial aromas of milk chocolate and coffee are backed up by robust malted cereals and rum n' raisin ice cream. There are also further aromas of prunes, dates and figs with some soft and earthy wood spices. A whiff of delicate peat smoke rounds things off.

On the palate this whisky has an immediate juiciness and vibrancy that belies its age. First comes a wave of prune juice and raisins with hints of apricot jam and black treacle. This is followed by further notes of butterscotch, caramel and warm ginger cake. The complexity and depth continues to develop with the introduction of candied peel, orange oil and crystalised ginger, along with wood and baking spices - think of cinnamon, mace, all-spice with a hint of clove and liquorice root. A robust maltiness and some faint earthy smoke also gets added in to the mix, plus final hints of cocoa powder and menthol tobacco.

The finish is long and juicy. It has so much depth. The dried fruits linger well, before giving way to the more robust malt and spices. The delicate soft smoke is always swirling around and now becomes more prominent.

What's the verdict?
It is a real treat to get to sample this rare whisky, the oldest that the distillery has ever released. Even with the amount of samples that we get sent and the amount of whisky that we are exposed to, we rarely get the opportunity to taste something of this age. The depth and complexity of flavour is exquisite.

Of course it is expensive, but then any whisky that is 50 years of age is going to be. You are paying for the extreme rarity, time and the experience of staff nurturing this cask through five decades in a warehouse. Not a 'whisky for everyone' for that reason (- sorry, someone always comments this whenever we review an expensive whisky), but it is a 'whisky for someone'. Fantastic stuff.

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