Benromach 15 Years (2020)
It’s no secret that Benromach is probably my favourite distillery. I say probably because this is the type of thing that’s always in flux. But certainly over the past 5 or 6 years, Benromach has been at or near the top if anyone asked me that daunting question: What is your favourite whisky?
That’s probably also why I care at an above average level about the distillery. For instance, I love their packaging and branding. It’s something that doesn’t really matter much in the end—it certainly doesn’t affect the taste—but I liked their modern, hand-written logo and their bold copper colours. It made Benromach stand out.
Although what I should’ve said is this: I loved (emphasis on past tense) their packaging and branding. Early June the distillery revealed a new look for all bottles as well as their website and other communication channels. The response was overwhelmingly negative. While I try not too judge quickly, I had trouble identifying redeeming qualities as well. The resemblance of the new Benromach bottles to Southern Comfort is eery.
I expected my own negativity towards the new design to ebb away, but we’re almost two months removed and I still don’t understand the choices that were made. Benromach went from one of the more unique-looking Scotch single malts to a rather generic appearance. Thankfully there was also a contingent that liked the new look. Hopefully they’ll be persuaded to the cult of Benromach (it’s not really a cult but I just liked the sound of it), while the existing fans won’t be dissuaded by something as insignificant as packaging. I know I won’t.
It’s been over 5 years since Benromach first launched the 15-year-old. I loved it then, but it’s high time to revisit this one.
Benromach 15 Years (43%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Praise be! There’s that Benromach profile I’ve come to expect and love! It has that classic soft barbecue smoke and grilled bacon aspect, but with lots of dried red fruits and hints of chocolate. There are some shy touches of citrus, grilled nectarine and pineapple too. A surprising hint of mint as well as a quick hit of tobacco leaves. Benromach at the top of its game.
Taste: Quite oak-y and dry. It has some fruity aspects, like red apples and plums, but also there’s also cocoa powder, a soft touch of smoke and cracked black pepper corns. Just a whiff of eucalyptus and a tinge of soy.
Finish: Sherried, fruity and spicy. Drying and medium in length.
Seriously, it’s like they’ve tapped into my brain to make something that perfectly fits my own tastes. Admittedly, the palate is a bit dry at times, which makes me wonder how that will translate to the upcoming Benromach 21.
But the most important thing—and something that is not a surprise at all—is that packaging really doesn’t matter. The Benromach 15 Years is as good if not better than when it was first introduced five years ago.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.