Benromach, as you probably know, is owned by Gordon & MacPhail. When they purchased the distillery in 1993 it was in poor condition and it was only in 1998 that it was restored to working condition and re-opened. G&M had to install new stills at the time of bringing the distillery back to production—so it’s not the same whisky made by new owners. Still, G&M’s version of Benromach stays true to the distillery’s tradition of lightly peated whisky in the old Highlands style (see, for example, this 1978 from Scott’s Selection). Their 10 yo was first released in 2009 and then in 2014 there was a bit of a revamp of the line with new packaging. I’m not sure if the composition of the actual whisky changed but the new 10 yo got very good reviews from most whisky geeks—indeed, Ralfy named it his whisky of the year. Even more popular among a fair number of whisky geeks was this 100 proof version (we’re talking the British 100 proof) which showed up with the revamp, though it took a bit longer to come to the US.
Despite all the good reviews (including from Michael K.) I couldn’t quite bring myself to purchase a bottle—this because it costs way too much in the US ($90 before tax in MN). It’s much more reasonably priced in the UK, however ($65), and so it was one of the first bottles I purchased in London for daily drinking during our long sojourn here. I can tell you that I liked it a lot and that I went through it at a very high speed (you may recall that I thought it paired particularly well with cheese). And as our sojourn is now coming to an end I’m finally getting around to posting my notes.
My understanding is that the 100 Proof is the same whisky as the regular 10 yo, just at a higher strength. That means it consists of a vatting of 80% ex-bourbon cask and 20% ex-sherry spirit, with additional “finishing” in oloroso sherry casks.
Benromach 10, 100 Proof (57%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sherry notes (caramel, dried orange peel) mixed in with mild, peppery peat (not phenolic). Saltier and nuttier as it sits. And then there’s a wave of somewhat Springbank’ish leather and a touch of savoury gunpowder. Really very nice. With more time the fruit gets redder (cherries? raspberries?) but there’s still a nice whack of citrus peel in there. With a few drops of water there’s first a big wave of mothballs and then the berry note expands.
Palate: As advertised by the nose: dried orange peel and peppery peat, gunpowder as I swallow. It’s got a nice bite at full strength. On the second sip there’s some bitterness but it’s not oaky—more like bitter almonds (I don’t like bitter almonds but it works here). Fruitier with water with more dried citrus and there’s a lot more leather here too now. Richer mouthfeel too.
Finish: Long. The salt comes out on the finish and the pepper expands too. More of the leather as it goes. With water it’s sweeter but the pepper is still around.
Comments: This is a very nice old-school whisky, quite rigorous in its way despite the sherried pleasures. If it weren’t quite a bit more expensive in the US than it is in the UK I’d probably add it to the regular rotation—and I’m tempted to do so anyway. I will say that I liked the second half of the bottle more than the first. The sherry notes expanded as it got more air and it was fruitier at the end than at the beginning.
Rating: 88 points.