I f*cks with Benromach. Excuse my language, but I just do. I’ve been impressed with them since I first came across their whisky. And the distillery hasn’t slown down since. Even better, now that it’s been 25 years since Benromach reopened, we’ve been seeing older releases come to market.
The Benromach 21-year-old has already been around for a good few years now. But I’m referring to the single cask releases of the past year or two. All of a sudden, these things have now matured for 18, 19 or even 20 years. That’s serious business. It’s a new chapter for Benromach. This distillery’s spirit is subtly peated anyway, but after almost two decades the phenols take even more of a backseat. And with that, the whisky becomes even more of a throwback to single malts from yesteryear.
For example, just recently a 20-year-old single cask was bottled for German importer Schlumberger. We’ll be taking a closer look at it below. (It’s fantastic!) But first, I found a nice sparring partner. A younger, more brash single cask Benromach. Also for Germany, released at the same time as its older brother.
Benromach 2011 12 Years (58.6%, OB for Germany, C#23)
Nose: Closer to some of the core range offerings, because of the sherry-forward style. There’s burlap, barbecued beef, smoked paprika powder and fresh olive oil. It’s rather a little more polite than I anticipated. Some cigar boxes, wood smoke and fennel too, as well as leather. Taste: Opening up on a tinge of sulphur, mainly gunpowder. That’s not unexpected for sherry-matured Benromach. If anything, it’s rather minimal. Hints of chocolate, ground black pepper and earthy smoke, as well as dried fruits, walnut skins and polished leather, as well as some charred raisins. Finish: Rather long. Hints of chillies, tobacco and smoked strawberries.
Very true to the Benromach style, this release for Germany is no too dissimilar a sister cask for Dutch importer Van Wees that I tried last year. Maybe a tad more well-behaved.
Benromach 2003 20 Years (57.5%, OB for Germany, C#35)
Nose: So very elegant. Opening up on waxy notes followed by lemon zest, almond paste, heather honey and bonfire, along with crème brulée, apfelstrudel and shoe polish. Also whiffs of bung cloth, leather and linseed oil. There’s also a distinct farminess. What’s not to like? Taste: Proper oily mouthfeel, a classic Benromach trait. There’s some tar and woodsmoke, alongside limes, mush bananas and wet pebbles. Also dried citrus peel and a tinge of grapefruit. Then an almost mezcal-like quality too. There’s really not much like Benromach coming from Scotland these days. Finish: Medium to long. A pinch of salt, lemon peels, all kinds of waxes. And a lingering smoke.
What else can I add? This Benromach 2003 20 Years for Germany is a triumph. There aren't many distilleries producing a style of whisky that's both old-school and innovative – simply because almost no one else is doing this. Complex. Unbelievably delicious.