I remember when I first went up to Benromach. The visit stands out so clearly in mind partly because I arrived there one chilly, May morning, having driven on UK roads for the very first time. I was petrified ahead of that visit – afraid I’d suddenly forget which side of the road I’d need to be on or not understand a round-a-bout.
Of course, having already lived in the UK for nearly five years at that point my brain had naturally been noting down the rules of the road while on buses, in taxis or in other people’s cars. But it was, nonetheless, a proud moment when I parked up in Benromach’s lot having injured neither myself, my car (which I nicknamed Dottie), humans or sheep (the latter being a high likelihood for road traffic in this part of Scotland).
Since then, I’ve gotten to know the team at Benromach and its parent company – independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail – much better. I’ve even got a certificate declaring that I’ve done my ‘still(wo)man for the day’ course at the distillery, where I learned many of the ins and outs of distilling with the team who answered my dozens of questions of curiosity.
The distillery has been the smallest in Speyside until recently, when Ballindalloch officially took over that role in recent weeks, and it is a beautiful place to go and visit. When G&M revitalised it starting in 1993, the plan was always to make whisky in a way that was of a style seen in Speyside in much earlier decades. As such, it uses peated malt, a less than common practice in whiskies from this region.
But, of course, not all the whisky you’ll find from this company dates to when G&M have had it under their remit. Stocks still remain and are released from time to time of older expressions, the latest of which I review in this post.
What’s been most interesting to me is the fact there are great similarities between this release and Benromach’s current offerings. The light, floral, apple note that exists in this on the nose, alongside a punchier, meatier palate, is something that the company continues to offer up in its newer expressions.
Benromach has – I believe – been in very good hands since G&M took it over. And I’m not surprised. G&M’s attention to quality spans its entire range and with such a long history as a family business it was no doubt important that their distillery also fall within this spectrum.
Now, before I get to the review, I must add one thing: today (2 October) marks the retirement of Michael Urquhart and the passing of the baton from the 3rd generation to the 4th generation of the family. I’ve met Michael on numerous occasions, most recently in February when I truly saw what a family-company G&M is. Michael – who has been with the company since 1981 – represents a perfect example of the whisky business: friendly, down-to-earth, knowledgeable and welcoming. I have no doubt that the new generation at G&M will continue the traditions so well engrained at the company but to Michael I raise a toast. What better way to do so than with a release from his own distillery?
As such, here are my thoughts on the latest vintage expression from Benromach:
(c): Golden coins
(n): Soft, baked apples, vanilla, just a hint of something grassy, something like candy floss (a delicate, sugary sweetness) and possibly strawberry foams – it’s layered and complex.
(p): Earthier and spicy – still lots of apples and toffee but a nice rounded dry grass and lemony smoke alongside it. A dash of something floral, almost lavender-like, as well.
In conclusion: A real dynamo. Whereas the nose is floral, delicate and sweet, the palate does an about-turn and has loads of lovely punch. A great expression.