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