I last reviewed malts from Benromach just over two years ago. That was a set of capsule reviews of two young wine-finished malts that I was just about whelmed by. Today I have for you a straight-up bourbon cask Benromach. It was bottled in 2018 as an exclusive for the UK markert and is either 8 or 9 years old. It is from a first-fill bourbon cask. I’ve previously reviewed another Benromach of similar age from first-fill bourbon but that was a vatting of a few casks. Still, I rather liked that one and take that as a positive portent for this one. I can’t help but be positive—it’s in my nature. You should try it sometime. Where was I? Oh yes, I was about to say that I generally really like Benromach’s old-school Highland peat profile—quite some distance from Islay peat’s phenolic wallop or the earthy, farmy peat of Campbeltown or Mull. And without heavy sherry covering things up this should be an opportunity to take a clear measure of what that profile is looking like in the whiskies the distillery is now putting out. Let’s get to it.
Benromach 2009/2018 (59.8%; UK Exclusive; first-fill bourbon cask 128; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet malt, mild peppery peat mixed with hot tarmac. As it sits the peat expands—there’s some graphite, some coal, some carbon paper—and there’s a meatiness to it as well (charred pork). With more time there’s some hints of lime peel and then expanding salt. With a few drops of water the smoke gets ashier and there’s preserved lemon peel along with it.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose but with more of the salt and a sweetness that seems more oak-driven than malty. Hot but approachable at full strength. Water makes it sweeter and also brings out more of the pepper and the charred meat from from the nose. The texture is much improved too.
Finish: Long. The salt and the peppery peat are the main story at first; after a bit some youthful oak emerges—gingery a la Amrut. As on the palate with water and the youthful oak is pushed back.
Comments: Excellent, austere, peated whisky of the old school. Trying to imagine how much better still this would be with another 5-7 years in the cask. More of this kind of thing please!
Rating: 88 points.