benromach contrasts kiln dried oak air dried oak

Benromach Contrasts – Air Dried & Kiln Dried Oak (2023)

There’s geeky whisky experiments, and then there’s what Benromach just did. By releasing two new additions to the Benromach Contrasts range, we get to share in the geekiness. Distilled in 2012 and bottled earlier this year, the new Contrasts Air Dried Oak and Contrasts Kiln Dried Oak showcase the nuances and flavours generated by different techniques to dry the wood that makes up the casks.

The Benromach Contrasts Air Dried Oak has matured in casks made from oak which has been dried for three years before toasting. It’s counterpart, the Benromach Contrasts Kiln Dried Oak features whisky matured in oak that was air dried for two years then put in a kiln to accelerate the drying process. According to Benromach, this increases the interaction between spirit and wood.

Keith Cruickshank, Distillery Manager at Benromach, said: “These two new whiskies were created from a deliberate experiment to see if different approaches to drying wood might have an impact on the flavours. They demonstrate how small changes can have a significant effect on taste – and that’s the intriguing nature of the air- and kiln-dried variants.

“We usually use virgin oak casks only with our Contrasts Organic whisky, so it’s been a great chance to see how our traditional lightly peated spirit reacts to this cask type, as well as the air drying versus kiln drying stave preparation. It will be exciting to see how whisky drinkers interpret the drams and their differences, and hearing which one they prefer and why.”

Okay, challenge accepted, Mr Cruickshank. Here are my thoughts.

benromach contrasts air dried oak

Benromach Contrasts – Air Dried Oak (46%, OB, 2023)

Nose: Classic Benromach barbecue smoke with warm vanilla custard sauce, notes of fudge, apricots and orange peel, as well a touch of leather and cigar boxes.
Taste: Proper oily mouthfeel, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise from Benromach. A mixture of sweet smoke, cracked black peppercorns, cloves and charred orange peel, as well as some tobacco leaves and menthol.
Finish: Medium length. Somewhat herbacious, subtle smoke and dark caramel, as well as sandalwood. Slightly dry.

A single malt that’s still quintessential Benromach. The oak is slightly more present than you’d otherwise expect from Benromach, but otherwise this really hits all the right spots.

benromach contrasts kiln dried oak

Benromach Contrasts – Kiln Dried Oak (46%, OB, 2023)

Nose: Quite waxy, almost surprisingly so. Notes of shortbread, Demerara sugar, citrons, and caramel-glazed apple. Some tropical fruits too, and almost a Bowmore-esque smoke influence, yet even more subtle (and less maritime of course).
Taste: Waxy and creamy. Hints of tinned pineapple, menthol, and toasted bread, but also some lychees and lemon peel. Finally a touch of ginger, olive oil and nutmeg.
Finish: Good length. An oily, sweet smokiness, very subtle. Some almond paste.

There's just something here that reminds me of Bowmore. Or am I crazy? Tropical fruits. Subtle peat smoke. Even though this has less of a traditional Benromach flavour profile than the Air Dried Oak, I think I prefer it.

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