Three whisky reviews in three days—what is this, a whisky blog? Yes, despite my unhealthy obsession with gaining acceptance from Foodgawker, it still is. And to make up for all the food posting that my core readership (the few, the not-so proud) have been putting up with I’m adding a little bonus whisky content.
This is my first Benromach review and frankly I’ve not had very many Benromachs. This is largely because there haven’t always been very many Benromachs to try in the US. There’s been the Traditional (with a name like that you know it’s NAS), the 10 yo, a 18 yo, 21 yo, a 22yo, a 25 yo, a 30 yo, a bunch in this Origins series and a bunch of wine finishes. Fine, fine, scratch that: there are in fact a large number of Benromachs in the US and there’s no good reason for my not having tried very many of them. Okay, let’s be exact, I’ve only had two of them before: the Traditional (which I might review next month if I can actually get around to picking up the sample a friend in town has for me) and the 10 yo (I liked the bottle I finished some years ago fine but never got around to replacing it).
If you don’t know, Benromach is an unusual Speyside distillery in that it does peated malt, and they’re owned by Gordon and MacPhail who’ve been releasing all these wine cask finishes. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like—be aware from the above that I can’t really speak to distillery character.
Benromach 1999-2010, Origins 2, Port Matured (50%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Nutty and raisiny at first with some dusty oak and then the red fruit comes in behind it (cherry). A bit of leather too. No sign of the peat. Gets spicier as it sits (powdered ginger). Water brings the salt out on the nose
Palate: Quite salty at first and quite sharp, indistinctly so at first and then it seems to be the wood. No peat or smoke to speak of here as well (and that’s with me primed to find it). Not much else really either under the sharp/woody note—maybe something very mushroomy (not mushrooms themselves but if you were to soak dried shiitake mushrooms in not much hot water and then drink the concentrated liquor). And it’s much hotter than I’d expect at 50%. Let’s see what time and air do. Not much after five minutes as the wood expands and becomes somewhat astringent (pencil shavings with some lead in there). After a bit longer there’s something vegetal about the bitterness. Still quite salty too. Okay, let’s see if water can salvage this. Well, it makes it less astringent but doesn’t really seem to draw out anything actively good.
Finish: Medium. The sharpness lingers and then suddenly the wine separates and becomes rather obvious. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Usually I associate that separation of wine and whisky with briefer finishes in wine casks. I don’t know that I’ve encountered it so much in full-term matured whisky, even at 10 years old. And, frankly, this tastes younger than 10. I don’t know if it’s the combo of youth and port that’s not working for this distillate or something else. I liked the nose fine but didn’t enjoy drinking it very much—that combination of saltiness and woody astringency is not a winning one. And I didn’t get as much fruit on the palate either as I usually do from port matured/finished malts—maybe this was from the end of the bottle (I was there when it was poured but can’t remember). Looking around, I seem to have liked it quite a bit less than many others.
Rating: 76 points.
Wow, this doesn’t sound like it comes from my bottle! I quite enjoyed this, and as I just poured the last 1/4 of the bottle into a smaller container, I’ll drink it again to compare with your notes – as soon as the temperatures drop below 80ºF. (I didn’t write down tasting notes, except that I’d definitely buy it again, which at $80 a pop it says something.)
However, I am a fan of port wood – just as much as you are of sherry. It is true that the best combos seem to have port + peat, whereas there is no peat to be found in this one, not side-by-side with a peated Benriach (or, god forbid, a Ballechin!)
As for your assertion that Benromach uses peated barley, what exactly you mean by that?
– They probably use lightly peated barley, but so do most of the other Speyside distilleries
– They occasionally put out peated whisky (e.g., PeatSmoke), but that would be from a special batch of malt, not their mainstream
– Their flagship, the 10yo, is a very old-school blend style, with discernible amounts of peat and sherry
However, in other whiskies, such as this Origins and the Traditional, if I remember well, the peat is quite subdued, and no more evident than, say, in an Arran 10yo.
I meant only that they’re the rare Speyside distillery known for making peated malt.
Yeah, I wondered if there was something off with my nose/palate last night. I should probably have saved some of the sample to try again on a different occasion but chose finally to just get it over with in one go.