Provenance: Speyside (Scotland)
Typology: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing barrels: Ex-bourbon, 24 months finishing in in ex-Sassicaia wine
Added coloring: No
Owner: Gordon & MacPhail
Average price: € 71.00
Official website: www.benromach.com
Well, look, we’re not on Islay anymore!
But we are still in a rather limited area, that of Speyside, a strip of land to the north-east of the Highlands around the River Spey, from which it obviously takes its name.
Despite the fact that it’s quite a small area, it has always been rich in distilleries, with distinctive aromatic and processing traits, albeit close to those of the Highlands.
The proximity is such that there is sometimes some confusion between the two areas, and some even takes advantage of that, like Macallan, which geographically would be a speysider but presents itself as a highlander.
Benromach is a relatively young distillery, founded in 1898, and like many others it has undergone continuous changes in ownership and periodic closures, until arriving at its current management, which led to its reopening in 1998 (precisely one hundred years since its foundation).
Small in size (around 700,000 litres a year), it has managed to carve out a prestigious place for itself in the Scotch whisky scene, thanks also to bottlings characterised by a final maturation in European wine casks: alongside this, you will find an expression refined in former Château Cissac Bordeaux casks.
This is a trend that is now quite widespread (not only in Scotland) and has led to the release of bottles that are, at least on paper, rather daring.
Note: this review deals with the first NAS version (No Age Statement) of this bottling.
This whisky doesn’t have the usual colouring added with caramel (which, incidentally, is used to give that air of “seasoned”, and therefore prestige, that is naturally associated with the dark nuances), but the ageing in Sassicaia nonetheless gives it a beautiful shade of intense dark gold, truly inviting, which together with the label (different and more elegant than other expressions of Benromach) already predisposes to drinking. There is no chillfiltration, so a certain opacity in the liquid is noticeable if drunk at colder temperatures.
Poured into the glass, the red wine is immediately present on the nose (and it would be difficult otherwise, given the importance of the Bolgheri product), there are fruity notes (black grapes, ça va sans dire, but also berries) and a light smoke that acts as a glue between the various aromas. Non-invasive alcohol.
In the mouth, you taste the wine in a more massive way, with an accompaniment of fruity sweetness, herbaceous notes and always a pleasant substrate of smoke. The Sassicaia is always there wanting to eat it all up, but the Benromach holds its own and maintains a harmonious structure, truly a spectacle.
Once the glass is finished (with the usual calm, and always alternating nose and palate to fully appreciate all the nuances), the vinous and fruity flavors remain, with a hint of dryness probably due to the tannins. Remarkable.
Some people turn their noses up at this type of ageing in wine, there is always the risk of chasing after the particular cask without caring too much about the final balance (I am also thinking of certain ageing in ex-beer casks, a close relative of whisky whose contribution, however, leaves me perplexed), but not in this case.
The embrace between distillate and Sassicaia is persuasive, there isn’t that aggressive predominance as in certain whiskies finished in Sherry, and the whole is harmonious and very, very pleasant.
Of course, after tasting this bottle you might want to buy a Sassicaia: in terms of cost you would be a tad over that of this Benromach, but Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci are truly delightful villages.
Whisky for Everyone