The current Benromach Distillery is owned by the independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail. While the name and site dates back to 1898, G&M installed all new equipment after they bought the distillery in 1992. The old equipment had previously been sold off or junked. Instead of replicating the old stills, G&M designed and built smaller stills. They began releasing whisky from the old stocks and then when their new whisky was ready they began selling from the new stocks. These two spirits, however, are effectively from different distilleries despite having the same name.
For their own distilled whiskies, G&M wanted to recreate an older style of Speyside whisky. While Speyside whiskies are now famous for being smooth and sweet without peat, they used to contain moderate levels peat, when peat was a major fuel source in the area. The Benromach 10 year old represents the whisky profile they were trying to create, while the Benromach Peat Smoke is more of an experimental bottling to see what a heavily peated speyside would be like.
For lovers of Benromach, today is a special day (It’s a special day for me). Benromach have just announced a new core release, the Benromach 15 year old. While the name and location of Benromach Distillery have remained the same since 1898, the stills and other equipment were lost after the closure in 1983. The independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail, purchased the site, stocks, and rights to the name in 1992 and installed new stills and equipment. The new stills are smaller than the previous ones and the general whisky making process also differs from pre-1983 Benromach. In October of 1998, the new Benromach Distillery was finally opened and distillation of the new spirit began.
Why does all of this matter? It matters because the Benromach 15 year old is the oldest officially bottled expression of the current Benromach Distillery! While you can find older Benromach whisky, it is all from the previous incarnation. If you’ve ever tried the older stuff, you’ll probably know that the whiskies are quite different.
As a big fan of the Benromach 10 and Benromach 10 100 proof, I am definitely looking forward to this release. According to the Benromach website, the expression is comprised of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and bottled at 43%. During a Christmas promotion last year (2014), they had some information on their site saying that they only used first fill casks. If this is the case with the Benromach 15, it should be quite interesting since first fill casks tend to impart much stronger flavours and even at 10 years can be quite robust.