I think the American craft distilling scene could take a lesson from Benromach Distillery. Looking at the movement from afar, it seems that there are a number of things they can no longer get away with, but one in particular is simply this: no more riding on the coat tails of anything other than what you put in the bottle. The consumer is now firmly fixing their laser sights on your whiskey, and they don’t care that you’re the little guy or about the stories you can tell. I think five years ago you could get away with $60.00 for your 2 year old bottle of dreck, but those days are leaving, if not already over. Quality can no longer be claimed, it now must be demonstrated, and folks need to be kept honest. Stories are now less important, your authenticity now is. And what does this have to do with Benromach 10?
I don’t know if Scotland has a “craft” distilling scene as we do in the states, but if I were to choose, Benromach Distillery would qualify as such. Under Gordon & MacPhail’s new ownership, Benromach released in 2009 this 10 year old single malt using a non-automated system with as many traditional touches as humanly possible. Benromach is the smallest distillery in Speyside and is operated with only 3 onsite employees. There are no computers, no pressure gauges. Spirit cuts are made manually. Casks are filled by hand, weighed and noted by marks on a blackboard to then be rolled by hand to their traditional dunnage warehouse and stacked no more than three high. Benromach seems to be fond of pointing out that this (these days) unique, traditional process is more expensive to maintain than today’s ultra efficient systems, and there is immense value in that. Folks like to know that a crafter takes no shortcut in pursuit of quality, but Benromach may also be building justification in their high price tag passed along to their consumers, and this certainly does not bother me. The “it’s tough and expensive to start a distillery” excuse is growing tired, and that’s not a good enough reason alone to charge premium prices. Premium pricing requires premium quality, and I hope the industry, no matter where it is, sticks to that principle as much as possible.
Benromach 10 is aged in 80% first fill ex bourbon casks and 20% first fill ex sherry casks. A final 12 months is spent in first fill oloroso. This lightly peated single malt is bottled at 43% and is chill filtered with no coloring added. Ralfy complained a bit on that low ABV and chill filtration, and maybe he’s right to point out the apparent inconsistency of presenting hand crafted excellence yet employing such non-craft techniques, but it may be a bit unfair as Benromach offers a 10 year old at cask strength with no chill-filtration whatsoever. So there’s that. On to it…
Nose- Impeccable balance. Dried fruit (raisins especially), dry sherry and lightly smoked. Wood shavings. Almonds and chocolate sweetness with time. Complex and wonderful nose.
Taste- Weighty, oily – sugary dried fruits. Creamy with chocolate and toasted almonds. Slight savory feel to it.
Finish- Long length with a smoke punch to start out, lingers on with light tobacco (maduro cigar), leather and slight fruit sweetness somewhere in there. Excellent.
Comment- A real quintessential Speyside malt and a fine composition of well balanced subtleties. Highly recommended and exactly what we are looking for.
SWC Rating – 90/100
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