Another week; another excellent Tweet Tasting hosted by Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire.
This was the second Benromach tasting after a previous event in November 2014 (though we didn’t take part in the previous one) and this one allowed us to taste the newly released 15 year old in addition to the flagship 10 year old.
Owned by Gordon & MacPhail since 1993, the Benromach distillery was reopened in 1998 and has gained a reputation for quality Speyside whiskies with an ‘older’ character. Their malt is sourced locally and lightly peated (about 10ppm) to produce a distinctive range of expressions.
Here’s our notes from the tasting…
10 Year Old
The 10 Year Old is bottled at 43% and is matured in 80% bourbon and 20% sherry casks before spending the final year marrying in a first fill Oloroso Sherry cask.
Initially not much on the nose, it takes a bit of time to open up.
Some floral, pear notes at first but these disappear fairly quickly and replaced by drier spicy flavours; ginger and oak.
There’s a lovely heather honey cereal smell (not a million miles away from the Scapa 12) with just a hint of smoke.
Given time the sherry starts to show; soaked raisins and almond nuttiness.
A fantastically complex nose for only 10 years old.
The taste is a bit more robust with the sherry dominating; stewed plums, some dark chocolate and black tea dryness. Delicious.
A decent length finish and it alternates between dark fruit sweetness and smoky dryness (lapsang souchong) for a long time.
Adding water didn’t benefit the whisky for me; not because the flavour is washed away like so many younger whiskies, but a lot of oil is released and I found it became a bit too creamy and thick for my taste.
Water does open up the fruit sweetness but I definitely prefer it neat.
This is a fantastic whisky and I can’t believe I’ve never owned a bottle of it.
For a 10 year old to have such complexity and balance is a real credit to the distillers.
If I was asked what my favourite 10 year old was, I’d probably have said Aberlour but I think this may just have replaced it.
15 Year Old
The 15 Year Old is also bottled at 43% and uses the same ratio of casks as the 10, but has more sherry influence due to the extra years.
Darker than the 10; more of a coppery gold.
The pear detected in the 10 is much more present, with acetone sweetness and a big whack of salt the first thing I detected.
It opens up well and the smoke starts to come through; warm and subtle like a cigar box (© @whiskydiscovery) and joined by fruit flavours such as apricot and pineapple.
A surprisingly strong caramel note appeared after a bit of time – lots going on in this whisky!
The taste is lovely and balanced, with orange peel and cloves, pear oil and pineapple.
A little cooked apples and then into a medium finish which was sweeter and less dry than expected, though quite peppery.
Given some time the sherry and smoke come through and like the nose, there are a lot of flavours which develop; it’s a lovely whisky, though I wasn’t quite as blown away as I was with the 10.
Adding water results in the same oily creaminess – stick with it neat is my recommendation.
The 15 is a cracking whisky which I do need to go back to and try again. The flavours are mouth-watering and I was reminded of the sensation drinking a negroni in the way it woke my mouth up. Although this 15 year old isn’t bitter; everyone on the tasting agreed that food was required afterwards.
So, overall both whiskies are excellent and of a very good quality. You’d be happy trying either and it’s going to be personal choice which one you prefer.
For me, the 10 shaded it just for getting that much flavour and complexity into a 10 year old whisky, but the 15 stands up well too and is a welcome addition to the Benromach range.
Thanks again to Steve Rush and Benromach for the samples.