But Derek admitted that buying their own distillery had been a valuable learning experience for Gordon & MacPhail as well. Their blending and bottling company had actually been founded three years before the Benromach distillery, but until they bought the (fairly run down) distillery they had no experience with the actual production side of whisky. Now they coud 'learn on the job'...
Personally, I wasn't blown away by their first 'Traditional' in 2004, but the score of 75 points becomes much more impressive if you take into account that the whisky was only circa five years old - and the old 12yo bottling that was available in the 1990's (shown above) scored 75 points as well... The 22yo Port Finish was a favourite of mine.
Benromach (Pronounced: benROmach)
57°36'49.2768 N, 3°37'12.1476 W
Dallas Dhu, Glenburgie, Miltonduff, Glen Moray
1 Wash, 1 Spirit (both coal fired)
500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year (maximum)
Gordon & MacPhail (since 1992)
Forres, Morayshire, IV35 0EB, Scotland
Yes, although the portfolio management is a little erratic
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
1) After Gordon & MacPhail bought the distillery in 1992 (some say 1993) it was completely refurbished; the only piece of original equipment kept in production was the spirit receiver.
2) Apart from the spirit receiver, there's another 'antique' piece of equipment operational in the Benromach distillery. The cast iron 'Boby mill' that is used to mill the malted barley into grist was constructed in 1913.
3) Benromach is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded during the 'whisky boom' of the
late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Craigellachie, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan,
Glenfiddich, Glen Moray, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
4) Around the year 2010, Benromach and Ben Nevis were the only malt whisky distilleries in Scotland that were still using brewers yeast for their whisky. Many people claim that brewer's yeast gives more character to the freshly distilled spirit than distillers yeast. On the other hand, most producers favour distillers yeast for its higher yield.
5) Most of the malt whisky that is distilled at Benromach is unpeated, but since 2007 the Benromach distillery has also released the occasional batch of peated whisky. This strategy requires more cleaning of the equipment.
Benromach 10yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Mellow and malty with spices in the background. Very well balanced, slowly opening over time.
Very interesting development, slowly sweetening out. Some very subtle phenolics after fifteen minutes.
Taste: Sweet start, growing bigger and bolder in the centre. Even a touch of something peaty? That's odd...
Score: 82 points - the "ground tone" is perhaps a little MOTR, but there are lots of interesting subtle traits.
Benromach 1999/2010 'Origins' Batch #2 (50%, OB, Port Pipes matured)
Nose: Heavy, concentrated fruits. Dried apples. Plum compote. The aroma's disappear after five minutes.
Yoghurt? Tobacco? The bouquet has a harshness to it which mostly disappears after I diluted it to +/- 40% ABV.
Taste: Sweet with a fruity start that dissolves into a fairly nondescript centre. it loses a few points here.
Score: 77 points - I was with the 22yo Port Finish they released in 2005, but this doesn't tickle my fancy...
Benromach 10yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Sweet and balanced with some spices in the background. Lightly sherried profile. Some organics.
A suggestion of something farmy. Surprisingly complex and actually quite pleasant.
Taste: Sweet and smooth start with a surprising pinch of peat after a few seconds.
This whisky grows weaker towards the finish. Loses a few points over time compared to the excellent start.
Score: 82 points - which means that the spirit produced by G&M has matured beautifully in a decade.
Benromach 1999/2008 'Origins' Batch #1 (50%, OB, Golden Promise, Sherry casks)
Nose: Milk powder. Cattle feed. A 'farmy' profile, but not as sour as many others in this style.
Rice crackers. A little bit like Deanston, but different.
Taste: A little farmy and oddly woody. Solid mouth feel with a touch of smoke.
This whisky grows rough and a little bitter in the finish.
Score: 78 points - Above average, but it could use a few more years of maturation.
Benromach 2000/2007 (60.4%, OB for La Maison Du Whisky, Cask #724, 241 Bottles)
Nose: Uniquely dusty and slightly peaty. Rubber. Then farmy organics - cattle feed? More and more rubber.
Taste: Rubbery / peaty start as well. Weird but I like it! Well, sort off.... Very extreme.
Score: 83 points - is this peated? It became weirdly hazy with a few drops of water.
Benromach 22yo Port Finish (45%, OB, 22 months Port pipes finish, 3500 Bottles, Bottled 2005)
Nose: Fruity with a hint of smoke. Strawberry sauce. Organics in the background.
Taste: Chewy tannins right from the start. Smoke. Very dry, especially in the finish.
Some distant fruits. More smoke after a while, accompanied by some lovely liquorice.
Score: 85 points - Lovely and quite unique. Could be a bit more expressive in the nose, though.
Oh yes, this is nice! It ticks all the right boxes for me, although it lacks a little depth.
Benromach NAS 'Traditional' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Light - smooth at first but growing a little grainier after a few seconds. Creamy. Oil?
Maybe a hint of Granny Smith? Quite restrained for a while, but then it opens up. Spicy.
It sweetens out and even gets a hint of faint organics - but it remains mostly superficial.
That being said, given enough time it shows flashes of nuts and fruits. More organics.
I even thought I detected some whiffs of menthol, but this one changes a lot over time.
Taste: Weak start, becoming sweeter and a little nutty on the palate. Gone too soon.
Smooth and slick on the palate as well. Over time I got apples, mint, smoke and liquorice.
It's quite dry, and when I added just a drop of water I even imagined some burnt peat.
Loses points here. It's quite slick (and improves with time), but for me it's a tad too 'MOTR'.
Score: 75 points - in the end it's just a little too dry, woody and simple on the palate.
If it wasn't for the fact that the nose kept surprising me it would have ended up in the 60's.
Benromach 18yo (40%, OB / Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled +/- 2003, 70cl)
Nose: Polished. Malt & citrus. Tangerine. Sherry. Spicy. Nothing wrong with this...
Taste: Malty and slightly bitter. A very fine malt whisky, but it could do with a little more personality.
Score: 80 points - it seems Gordon & MacPhail is moving towards 'spunkier' malts. Great!
Benromach 1973/2001 (40%, OB, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl)
Nose: Very subtle. Creamy but a little prickly as well. Light with accents of oil and pine.
Hint of peat? Almost a little bit 'Lowlandish' in character, I'd say. Very pleasant though...
Taste: Sweet and malty. but a tad thin. Big enough burn, though - it feels very powerful.
Dry. Bitter finish. I guess you could call this 'MOTR' as well, but in this case it's a solid malt.
Score: 82 points - a classic example of the subtlety that has made Speysiders so popular.
Benromach 15yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Sweet and mellow. Much 'grainier' than the 14yo I just tried. Light fruits.
It threatens to wander off in an oilier, veggier direction. Maybe a hint of smoke?
After some time some faint spices and organics. Not bad at all, this Benromach.
Taste: Oy.... Something artificial and perfumy. Dry. Winey. It loses many points here.
Score: 67 points - a pleasant nose, but I really don't like the gritty taste of this malt.
The uneven, dry and bitter taste (aspirin) prohibits me from really enjoying this one.
Benromach 19yo 1978/1998 (63.8%, UDRM, code, LLXL00000009, Bottle #2036, 70cl)
Nose: Spirity. Rhum. Hard to pin down anything specific, maybe because of the high proof?
Hey, now I get something: it takes a distinctly fruitier direction after a few minutes.
Taste: Undiluted, it's rather sweet at first. The resemblance to rhum pops up here as well.
Some pine in the center. Then more citrus. Not e lot of complexity, even after adding water.
Score: 74 points - definitely disappointing, given the age, proof and price.
Benromach 12yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled +/- 1995, 70cl)
Nose: Big with a lot of development. Fresh and flowery at first, then sweeter and more malt.
Taste: Overwhelming soft sweetness with a long afterburn. Woody and slightly sherried finish.
I have to say that it's just a bit too woody and bitter for my tastes - but that's just me...
Score: 75 points - the very definition of an 'average' single malt.
Benromach 14yo 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label)
Nose: Very fruity from a distance. Rich and sherried on closer inspection. Hint of mint.
Quite lovely! Much more character than the Connoisseurs Choice bottlings of the 90's.
After a few minutes organics join the party. Oriental spices. A whiff of smoke, perhaps?
Five minutes later I even thought I found some peat. No 'MOTR' malt, that much is certain.
Lots of development too. After a while I got pickled onions. Quite a nasal adventure.
Taste: Hmmm, A tad thinner on the palate at first. Grape skins and other fruity notes.
More serious in the centre; quite dry and woody. Smoky. No sweetness, but I like it.
Score: 87 points - the nose almost pushes it into the 90's, but the palate holds it back.
The nose is really quite spectacular - not unlike a heavily sherried Ardmore or Longmorn.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Benromach Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Benromach page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Benromach expressions that have been released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
2004 - In May the 'Benromach Traditional' is released; the first bottling that was distilled by the new owners.
2007 - Benromach is now the smallest operational distillery in the Speyside region. They have a maximum production capacity of 500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year, but operate at just a quarter of maximum capacity.
2009 - The Benromach 10yo is released; the first bottling with an age statement since Gordon & MacPhail took over the distillery. In previous years they had released the Benromach Organic (in 2006), the Benromach Peat Smoke (in 2007) and the Benromach Origins Golden Promise (in 2008). Supposedly, all are from G&M's own production.
In 1938 the Benromach distillery was purchased by Associated Scotish Distillers Ltd., a subsidiary of
Train & McIntyre Ltd. (owned by National Distillers of America). In an ongoing process of concentration,
Train & McIntyre were themselves purchased in 1953 by DCL. Benromach ('shaggy mountain') was
rebuilt in the 1960's and 1970's, but that didn't keep the owners from closing the distillery in 1983,
together with Banff, Dallas Dhu, Glen Albyn, Glenlochy, Glen Mhor, North Port and Saint Magdalene.
Their other sister distilleries Coleburn, Glenury Royal, Hillside / Glenesk and Millburn were closed just
two years later in 1985. Ownership of Benromach transferred to United Distillers in 1986.
In 1992 Benromach was sold to independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail
in 1895). Through the sale Gordon & MacPhail obtained the empty buildings (distillery
and warehouses) and remaining stocks from UDV, but it took six years for Benromach
to resume production. All that was left in the empty buildings were the washbacks, so
new equipment had to be installed throughout the distillery. Benromach was complete
refurbished. This included the installation of two new stills, smaller than the old ones.
Gordon & MacPhail couldn't bring Benromach back to life quite as quickly as they
would have liked because they had some problems obtaining the trademark and
water rights. However, on October 15, 1998 Benromach was officially re-opened
by Prince Charlie of Wales. A visitor centre was added in 1999 and the first whisky
that was distilled by Gordon & MacPhail themselves was released a little later in
May 2004 as 'Benromach Traditional' - shown at the right. As time went by, the
new owners gradually released more and different expressions, slowly building
a varied portfolio inluding a 22yo Port Finish, an 'organic' and a peated whisky.
Five certified malt maniacs (Serge, Davin, Craig, Krishna and myself) visited Benromach in June 2003
and were shown around the distillery and the big Gordon & MacPhail warehouses by Derek Hancock.
The grand tour Derek gave us was one of the most interesting ones I've had so far and I realised
that I still had a lot to learn about the production, maturation and distribution of Scotch malt whisky.
distillery in Forres was constructed in 1898 by the
Benromach Distillery Company Ltd.; a partnership between Duncan
McCallum (owner of the Glen Nevis distillery in Campbelltown) and
F. W. Brickman (a spirit merchant from Leith). Benromach distillery
was officially opened in the year 1900 but closed again soon after.
Between 1907 and 1910 Benromach operated under another name
('Forres') under the sole responsibility of Duncan McCallum, before
falling silent again. Benromach was revived again shortly after
World War I by brewers, but the distillery fell silent again in 1931.
Benromach was the first distillery in Scotland to install direct oil
firing under their stills in when they re-opened it in 1937.
Is the distillery or