Tasted alongside its sibling, the Benromach 10 year old
Like many distilleries in Scotland, Benromach has a rather interesting history of ups and downs over the years. It was originally founded way back in 1898, but over the course of the next hundred years or so it was sold, closed and re-opened more times than I care to detail.
That was until independent bottler Gordon & Macphail decided to give it some loving and embarked on a project to refurbish Benromach and put it back into production. It officially came back to life in October 1998 and in 16 short years has managed to conjure up a pretty impressive portfolio of whisky that seems to just get better and better (have you tried their latest ‘peat smoke’!?)
Knowing that they’re making some pretty tasty drams these days, I was very keen to try their new 10 year old, bottled at 100° proof. So you can imagine how chuffed I was when this nicely presented set showed up courtesy of the folks at Alba Whisky.
Thanks to this generous set, I’d have the chance to be able to taste the new higher proof 10 year old side-by-side with the original. After all, they are supposedly constructed in exactly the same way, with the only difference being chill-filtering and a different alcohol percentage. Time to see what kind of difference this really makes.
Benromach 10 year old 43% ABV
First up was the widely available 10 year old expression. It’s comprised of 80% ex-bourbon cask matured whisky and 20% ex-sherry cask matured whisky. These parcels are then vatted together and left to rest for their final year in an ex-Oloroso sherry cask before being bottled. Talk about labour intensive.
I found the nose quite heavy (as in, laden with plenty of layers), but at the same time it seemed bright and active. Honey, malty sweetness, crushed biscuits, dried pineapple, tangy and buttery with a whiff of smoke.
The more I came back to it, the more it changed, so take the above with a grain of salt. One thing I can confidently say is that there seemed to be quite a lot going on for your average 10 year old!
A nice lightly oiled mouthfeel for a 43%er. Hints of spice up front, sweetness, apple skins and sultanas with a fair amount of damp vegetal smoke on the finish. Not overly warming, but well balanced with a lot of flavour left behind on the palate.
Benromach 10 year old 100° Proof (57% ABV)
Many of you (especially if you’re reading this from the U.S.) would be wondering how 100° Proof equates to 57% ABV. You’d probably expect it to translate to 50% ABV, right?
The key is in the ° symbol, indicating the old imperial measurement of ‘degrees proof’, whereby 100° equates to 57.15% ABV. There’s actually a neat story linking this back to rum, naval times and the flash point of gunpowder (you can read more here). Anyway, I digress. Back to the whisky.
It’s not just the photo, but as you’d notice from the first image, the 100° proof bottling is noticeably darker in colour.
It’s immediately richer on the nose. Perhaps not as ‘lively’ as the regular ten, but it’s depth could easily make you think it’s older than it is. Malty caramel sauce, creamy, hints of vanilla, some spice and the red fruits you’d associate with sherry maturation. That little whiff of smoke is hardly evident.
Quite hot and prickly up front on the palate, but this transitions into a thick and creamy mouth-feel. Sweet honey, malty biscuits, spice and jammy berries. A dash of water tames the heat and enhances the sweet, creamy richness, but I found it detracted from the lovely nose, so experiment carefully.
Both come across to me as very well made whiskies. What do I mean by that exactly? It’s a little had to articulate I suppose. They’re not necessarily in your face or memorable for one particular note, rather they just leave you with a general impression that they’re very well balanced, well thought out and crafted with precision. I like to think that’s a hallmark of something that’s well made.
With all that being said, Benromach still fly under many people’s radars a little bit. A bit of a shame really, as they’re producing some pretty smart whisky indeed.
The new Benromach 10 year old 100° proof is now available in Australia through specialty whisky retailers at around the AU$150-160 mark. Thanks again to Alba Whisky for the generous (and photogenic) samples.