Benromach is one of those distilleries that I've been hearing about for years, but never got around to trying. While its history goes back to 1898 (I'll leave the details to Malt Madness as per usual), when it was purchased by the independent bottler Gordon & Macphail in 1992 they were basically handed an empty shell with whatever old stock was left. So while the name has continued, the distillery itself is basically a new entity.
They have taken the approach of trying to resurrect an older lightly peated Speyside style. It took some time for them to get everything going again, but since then G&M has managed to build up a fairly solid core line of lightly peated whiskies along with heavily peated, organic, and triple distilled releases and a wide array of one-offs, often focusing on various kinds of casks, plus occasional and expensive releases from the old stock they acquired.
This release is aged for nine years in a combination of 80% first-fill ex-bourbon and 20% first-fill ex-sherry casks, then blended and married for at least one year in ex-sherry casks before being bottled at 43% (probably chill filtered, maybe a bit of coloring?).
I purchased this bottle in 2014, but couldn't find a bottling code.
Benromach 10 Year
Nose: a wonderful melange of sherry, creamy malt, caramel, vanilla, and gentle peat smoke, salty sea air, ripe and unripe bananas, herbal, cinnamon. After adding a few drops of water the peat becomes stronger, the sherry fades into the background, and the creamier/vanilla notes pop more.
Taste: opens with bittersweet sherry backed up by mild oak tannins, which becomes thicker around the middle, malty, apple, and floral overtones as the sherry fades a bit, then light oak, charred wood, and pleasant peat at the back. After dilution it becomes softer overall, but there's some wine-y tartness around the middle, the oak is less strong at the back, and the peat waits until the finish to show up.
Finish: sherry residue, peat smoke, moderately tannic/charred oak
This is hands down one of the best entry-level malts being made today. The middle ground between lighter unpeated malts and big, heavy peated malts has been hollowed out over the years as many distilleries that once used lightly peated floor malt have switched to unpeated commercial malt (looking at you, Glendronach and Glen Garioch), so it's good to see the few places that carry on the tradition. The closest current analog I can think of is Highland Park, especially since they are both overtly sherried, but the peat in this Benromach reads somewhere between Islay and Benriach to me, just at a lower pitch.
While this is no competition for the bigger peat/sherry combos, I really appreciate that this is just nice to drink. Anything bottled under 46% tends to catch some flack in the enthusiast community, but sometimes I really just want an easy drinking whisky with no threat of singing my taste buds. It's just plain nice whisky at a decent price (in most places).
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