Tag Archives: speyside

Benromach 10 & Sassicaia Wood Finish Review

Benromach 10 – Distiller: Benromach. ABV: 43%. Age: 10 years.  Region: Speyside. Price: $50.

Benromach Sassicaia Wood Finish – Distiller: Benromach. ABV: 45%. Age: 9 years. Region: Speyside. Price: $60-70.

There’s a lot to love in the current Benromach lineup. The 15-year-old (review here) and the Imperial Proof were two of my favorite drams of 2015. The distillery, revitalized by Gordon & MacPhail during the 1990s as they sought to expand from independent bottling to distilling as well, emphasizes its smallness. It’s the lowest-production working distillery in Speyside, even after doubling capacity recently, and is operated entirely by three people. The brand is also focuses on its “pre-1960s Speyside” profile, by which they mean lightly peated. (That applies to all but the more robust Peat Smoke bottling.)

Benromach has also mixed things up with some limited wine cask finishes, the latest of which is a Sassicaia finish–a Bordeaux-style Tuscan red. To appreciate the particular qualities the finish brings, I tasted the Sassicaia Wood Finish alongside the standard Ben 10.

I can say without hesitation that the 10 is a first-rate daily drinker. The nose leads with sweet bourbon fruits, especially pear. There’s also cinnamon stick, raw ginger, and a little grapefruit. On the palate, the touch of peat adds great warmth, pointing up the flavors of baking spice and buttery malt biscuits. The body is relatively light. The peat extends the medium-dry finish very nicely.

The 9-year-old Sassicaia adds a few more proof points (bottled at 45% ABV) and has a gorgeous rosy-orange tint in the glass. The nose has more vanilla bean and custard than the 10, with a floral note too: violet? Lavender? The palate adds orange blossom to the 10’s profile, with the peat a bit lighter, and a drier oak on the finish.

A welcome variation on a great new standard, and a relative rarity with just 3,500 bottles made.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Benromach graciously shared samples with us for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Balvenie Tun 1509 Review

Distiller: Balvenie. Age: no age statement. Batch 1 ABV: 47.1%. Batch 2 ABV: 50.4%. Region: Speyside. Price: $350-500.

The Balvenie Tun series began with the Tun 1401 in 2010–a vatting of 20- to 50-year-old rare casks selected and married by Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart. (A “tun” is a mixing vessel, such as the giant tubs used for these vattings.) It was a smashing success.

Hence the follow-up, the current Tun 1509. No age statement, like the first, but understood to be from somewhat younger and less rare casks than the Tun 1401. The Tun 1509 is still quite hard to find and pricey ($300-500), but thanks to my man @egod16, I was able to try Tun 1509 Batches 1 and 2 recently. Very glad I did.

Batch 1, a vatting of 42 casks, is massively rich, velvety, and multilayered. As warm as a comforter fresh from the dryer. Nose recalls the brilliant Samaroli Evolution. Stewed figs and kirsch-soaked Black Forest cake cherries. Baked peaches. Sweet parchment notes you only get from 20+ year-old oak malt. Honeysuckle. Palate is drier than expected. Peppery. A sonata’s worth of tannic old barrel notes. Pomegranate-infused dark chocolate. A finish that’s long, dry, and hugely satisfying.

Batch 2, a vatting of 32 barrels, is fine, but a step down. Winier, but with more buttery bourbon too. Bosc pear and apple, baked, but still with some brightness. There’s younger malt here, no question. Cotton candy comes out with a drop of water. Palate’s more delicate than Batch 1’s, though still with plenty of pepper and baking spice. More milk chocolate than dark.

Both lovely, but Batch 1 is the big winner here. If 2 is a try-before-you-buy, 1 is one for the ages.

Thanks again to @egod16 for the taste, and to Jonathan at The Whisky Ledger for the gorgeous photo. Slàinte, friends! -BO

Glenlivet Nàdurra Peated Cask Review

Distiller: Glenlivet. Region: Speyside. ABV: 60.1%. Age: no age statement. Price: $60.

Having re-tasted my way through the standard Glenlivets recently, I was hungry (thirsty) to see this ubiquitous brand unleashed at cask strength. And my curiosity is always piqued by an unusual twist or finish–a peated cask finish on a classic Speyside, say.

Enter the Glenlivet Nàdurra Peated Cask. Glenlivet’s Nàdurra line is all non-chill-filtered (hurrah!) and bottled cask strength–61.5% ABV in this case. There’s a first-fill Oloroso bottling, a virgin oak bottling, and this no-age-statement Peated Cask bottling that started in ex-bourbon casks, then was finished in casks that previously held a heavily peated Speyside.

Nose: creme brulee and fresh grain. Faint peat–toasty, not briny or prickly. Salted toffee. Even without water, all flavor, no heat. With a few drops of water, bananas foster! Palate: wow. Very peppery, with a mild, toasty peat that complements it wonderfully. Bourbon fruit. Roasted nuts. Finish: on the drier, more peppery side, as Glenlivet often is. Lingering lemon danish with a dusting of cocoa.

I think this one’s a home run. Well done, Glenlivet! -BO

Glenlivet kindly provided a sample bottle for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Buy Glenlivet Whisky online at Mash + Grape

Prometheus 26 Review

Producer: Glasgow Distillery Co. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 47%. Region: Speyside. Price:  $950.*

The last time I was in Glasgow a few years back, on my way to Glengoyne, I remember regretting there were no distilleries to visit in the great gray city, which once had dozens of them.

They’re on their way back. The Glasgow Distillery Co., run by Liam Hughes & Ian McDougall, has become the city’s first in over 100 years, and A.D. Rattray has a distillery and visitors’ center in the works too.

Right now, GDC is facing the dilemma common to whisk(e)y startups the world over–what to sell before your own product is ready. They’ve already got their own gin on the market, but for whisky lovers, there’s something more fiery: Prometheus 26.

It’s a 26-year-old peated Speyside sourced from an undisclosed distillery, matured in first-fill sherry casks. They’ve released just 3,000 bottles, including 1,000 to North America and 1,100 to Europe.

So how is it? Marvelous. The nose has a gorgeous, symphonic richness to it. I got dry vanilla cake, dense sherry fruits–figs, prunes, dried cherries, and more–and buttery malt in beautiful harmony. I just wanted to nose it all day long.

On the palate, weight, spice, fire, though little peat. Heavy tannins take a bit of time and a drop of water to integrate. When they do, the sour notes meld with the spice and mild sweetness beautifully. Long finish with burnt sugar, oak spice, and dark-roast coffee.

Prometheus was the Greek God who brought fire to mortals. An ambitious name, but one hell of a dram. Hard to find and priced to make a statement, but big rewards for whoever gets a taste. Sláinte, friends! – BO

*A company representative kindly provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% out own.

Benromach 15 Review

Distiller: Benromach. ABV: 43%. Age: 15 years. Region: Speyside. Price: $100.

Benromach’s a great example of the benefits of going small in a time of bigness. Bought and rescued from obsolescence by merchant bottler Gordon & MacPhail in the mid 1990s, the current Benromach distillery is run by just three people. Its stated mission is to restore the “pre-1960s Speyside style” — largely meaning having a very gently peated component to bring the more common honeyed and floral profile alive.

In the recently released (Fall 2015) Benromach 15-year-old, this works like magic. It was matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, some heavily charred. It’s a dram that needs time and attention, but rewards them.

Both sherry and peat are up front on the nose, but not with the intensity of a Lagavulin or sherried Ardbeg. Instead, they gently blend into aromas of baked goods, say a fresh cinnamon bun with raisins. The body and palate are dry, dark, dense, and oily, and need a drop of water (literally a drop) and a bit of time to unfold. When they do, there are dried cherries, figs, and earthy, chocolatey peat. The finish is mild but long, with peppery spice and a very soft sour oak note at the very end.

A dense, delicious dram I’ll happily return to any time. Cheers, friends! – BO

Craigellachie 13 Single Malt Review

Distiller: Craigellachie. Region: Speyside. 46% ABV. Age: 13 years. Price: $55-60.

A favorite dram of 2015 that tastes just as good in the New Year. From the heart of Speyside, Craigellachie is one of the few single malts distilled with a worm tub condenser, giving an extra weight and density to the spirit. Long a staple of blends, it’s only recently available in single malt form, as part of John Dewar & Sons’ Last Great Malts lineup. (Royal Brackla, Aberfeldy, Autmore, and The Deveron round out the lineup.)

Coppery, buttery, and dried apple notes on the nose. Recalls Redbreast in a very nice way. With time, more malt, bourbon-barrel, and hints of cocoa. Burst of spice on the palate. Shortbread biscuits, a little Chardonnay wineyness. Waxy and viscous on the palate, but with a sense of clarity through it all. Lingering spicy finish with a hint of white smoke.

It’s not the kind of dram that knocks you out the way an A’Bunadh or Uigeadail does, but it’s consistently satisfying–and it lingers in your mind hours later the way a great melody does. And each time you revisit it, it offers more nuance.

It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Speysides. Check out our thoughts on the 19-year-old version, and stay tuned for a writeup on the 23-year-old too. Sláinte, friends! – BO

Buy Craigellachie 13 online at Mash + Grape