Typical: no Benromach reviews for two years and then two come at once. On Monday I had a review of a lovely young Benromach from a first-fill bourbon cask that was a UK exclusive. Today I have a review of a young Benromach from sherry casks (full-term maturation or finish? I don’t know). The Benromach Peat Smoke has been around for some time but has previously been an ex-bourbon whisky—and released without an age or vintage statement, I’m pretty sure. I’m not sure if this one—distilled in 2010 and released in 2018— was a special one-off or whether it’s an ongoing limited edition release or, for that matter, if it’s now a regular part of their lineup. I could look it up I suppose, but it’s late here in Minnesota—if you know, please write in below. At any rate, I suppose we should be glad they didn’t name it “Profit Maximizer”, or maybe it would have been more honest if they had. We whisky enthusiasts are a silly lot and very little induces us to shell out the big bucks more than the combination of sherry and peat. Well, with Monday’s bourbon cask I noted that the smoke and the old-school Highland peat character was not covered up by sherry. How overbearing is the sherry going to be here? Let’s see.
Benromach Peat Smoke 2010-2018 (59.9%; sherry cask; from a bottle split)
Nose: Nutty sherry to start with a bit of salt mixed in; the peat is mostly covered up. As it sits the smoke begins to cut through the sherry and the whole is quite sharp; a little bit of Sichuan peppercorn in there too. Gets more savoury and salty as it sits and there’s some pencil lead and some earth too. I’m not really picking up any of the dried citrus or apricot that often shows up in sherried whiskies. With more time it softens and there’s some butterscotch and some toffee mixed in with the salted nuts and prickly smoke. With several drops of water added, the fruit begins to emerge: dried tangerine peel first and then expanding citronella; some ink and some charred pork in there too. After a few more minutes there’s the apricot.
Palate: Comes in hot! There’s not much happening here I’m afraid past the heat and the sharp/salty mix from the nose. Let’s see if air open this up at all before I add the necessary water. Well, it gets a little less hot as it sits but I can’t say that it gets very much more interesting. Time to add some water. Ah yes, now we’re talking: the dried tangerine peel pops here too now along with the toffee and some dried mango with a hint of black salt (sorry, it’s an Indian thing). The earth and the pencil lead emerge here too (very Springbank’ish in a way).
Finish: Long. A bit of sherry separation at the top (the taste of blood in my mouth) but then it seems to come back together. Nuttier and beanier here; salty again at the end. With time there’s some burnt wheat toast. Darker and richer with water with dark chocolate that turns to coffee grounds as it goes.
Comments: I liked the nose a lot from the get-go but the palate was disappointing neat. I had a rating in the low-mid 80s pencilled in till I added water. That made the palate and finish bloom, improved the nose even further and turned this into a whisky I wish I had a couple of bottles of. And to think some people insist on not adding water to high strength whiskies!
Rating: 88 points.