I watched this Benromach 1978 from Scott’s Selection rise in price slowly over nine years at a well-known Twin Cities metro area store. And then this year I finally purchased it. I got it with the idea of doing a bottle split with some fellow whisky geeks but couldn’t find very many people who were interested. I guess people are only interested in 1970s distillate if it’s from a small subset of name distilleries and/or aged well over 20 years. This is either 18 or 19 years old (always hard to know with Scott’s Selection) and Benromach is not a name that sets very many people’s pulses racing. It is one of the Speysiders that uses perceptibly peated malt (Ardmore and the defunct Dallas Dhu are/were two of the others) but it doesn’t really have much of a cult. Maybe things would have been different if it had stayed closed when operations ceased in 1983 (when so many now sought after distilleries closed) but in 1992 Gordon & MacPhail acquired the distillery, and re-opened it at the end of the decade. G&M’s own distillate is now finally online—and I hope to review some of their releases soon (though some of the prices in the US are a little hard to understand). In the meantime please enjoy this blast from an unsexy past.
Benromach 1978-1997 (49.8%; Scott’s Selection; from my own bottle)
Nose: Lime zest and mineral oil, which develops a mild, peppery peatiness (in the hot tarmac family) as it sits. As it sits it open up into tart-sweet apple and raspberries with some vanilla on the side. Water brings the acid right back up with citronella and cider, but the other fruit is still there behind it.
Palate: A replay of the initial notes from the nose: lime and lime zest followed by mineral, peppery peat—edging here towards a slight plasticky note as it moves to the finish. A very nice, oily texture. The lime zest intensifies with time and some soot emerges as well. With water the citrus moves from lime/zest to lemon and there’s some pineapple in there too now; the peppery peat recedes.
Finish: Medium. Thankfully, the plasticky note doesn’t expand—instead the lime zest and mineral notes are what linger. Water pushes the peat back here too and extends the finish—and it’s brighter lemon rather than bitter lime zest here too.
Comments: A very austere, old-school profile, very much in line with that of other mildly peated Speysiders of this era that I’ve had (from distilleries like Ardmore and Dallas Dhu). This is not a world-beater, but, again, I think for those of us who came to single malt obsession late there is much to be learned from malts such as this one instead of just chasing 90+ pointers or legendary names and/or big age numbers. At any rate, I’m glad I finally purchased this bottle. I’m going to drink the rest of the bottle the way I did this pour: sipping half neat for 45 minutes or so and then adding water.
Rating: 87 points.
I’ve been drinking this bottle down slowly over the last week or so and I’m very happy to report that the slight plasticky note is completely gone and that it’s fruitier and more complex on the palate. If I were reviewing it now I’d have it in the 89-90 point range.