The whisky gods have been kind to us! When I first heard about the Benromach 35 release I was ecstatic! When I first saw the price tag I was not so enthused… I have a bit of a catch-them-all attitude with Benromach and at just over 400 quid the 35 does not seem to be for mere mortals. I truly didn’t think I would be able to try it but lo and behold, we were selected for the #Benromach35 Whisky Wire tweet tasting! So this little gem showed up at our door.
Before we begin the tasting notes we should go through the expansive back story behind this whisky. Before they released the 35 this year, they discontinued the 30 year old. If you ever got the chance to try the 30 year old count yourself lucky. It’s a cracking whisky and was a great deal a few years ago. I was sad to see it go but I suspected they had something else up their sleeves. The reason why the 30 and 35 year are so special is because they are actually from a closed distillery. “Benromach is not a closed distillery!” you might say. Well you are right and wrong in that respect. While the distillery was established in 1898 and the site is still producing whisky, the original style stills are no longer there. In 1983 the distillery was mothballed and it was only opened again after Gordon & MacPhail bought it in 1993 from United Distillers. However, by that time very little of the original distillery was left. The stills were gone. So G&M pretty much built a new distillery there. The newer stills were smaller and almost all of the production equipment was installed in a single room so that production could be managed by a small crew. For some pictures and tour information see here.
Not only was all the equipment replaced, but the style was also changed. G&M wanted to recreate the old Speyside character. This meant having a peatier whisky than what is generally produced today in the Speyside region. You might find this odd but remember that G&M have been operating since 1895 and they have have been managed by the Urquhart family since 1915. So they have seen a lot of whisky history and are perhaps in the best position to embark on this endeavor. What this means though, is that any Benromach bottling older than 15 years old is most likely from the “old distillery” and will have a distinctly different flavour profile. Also since G&M are independent bottlers it is unlikely that you will see other bottlers releasing Benromach whisky and according to their reps it is unlikely that G&M will release their own “independent” bottling. So the only Benromach whisky you are going to see on the market will be official bottlings. Hence the rarity of the 35 year old.
It also stands out in that it was matured in first fill sherry casks. Typically first fill casks impart a lot of flavour on the spirit so that maturation is typically shorter to prevent over-aging the whisky. However, it seems to be a recent trend to release these super old first fill sherry casks and quite frankly it’s exciting!
Distillery: Benromach Distillery
Age: 35 Years Old
Cask: First fill sherry casks
Price: £419.95 at Master of Malt
Fun tropical fruity sweetness. Like pineapples, cantaloupe, and honey dew melons. Fresh cut grass. Stewed prunes. Roasted durian with that fruity stinkiness and savoriness.
Berry wine, mead, and jam. Astringent tart oak. Bright apple tarts and golden berries. A lovely kind of fermented jammy sweetness that is bright and lively. Martinelli fizzy apple cider.
Golden oak, old but somehow brighter in flavor. Apple pie with a bit of bitterness from apple cores or new oak. Very crisp and bright. Refreshing and light. Apple cider.
This wasn’t what I was expecting from a 35 year old. It seemed younger and more lively with a brighter character. Great play between different fruits and sharp oak. It was a lot of fun to drink and not at all a brooding dram. It felt like something I would like to drink while schmoozing around at a swanky party. For some reason it makes me think of the 1920’s flapper era and great Gatsby parties. If this were more affordable it would probably be my everyday dram. If only…
Heavy wood notes on the nose. Musty cellar, cardboard boxes, hint of cereal, flowering plants and freshly turned earth.
The light malty sweetness of a warm cuppa Horlicks. Moving to bitter crab apple, forest berry pie and coffee.
Bitter finish. Burns the palate. Pepper and tobacco.
The bitterness was interesting but a slight turnoff for me. Nonetheless an amazing dram to try from a long past distillery. Interested to try what the new stills bring in the coming years.
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