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This is an abridged version of a review I posted on my blog today
Benromach's website refers to their 10 Year Old Single Malt as a "classic pre-1960s Speyside". Now I don't know what this means exactly, since I was born at the tail-end of the 1970s and my financial portfolio does not permit me to purchase bottles from that era. I'll take them at their word. One of the unique features of Benromach is that they use a dunnage warehouse. A dunnage warehouse uses stone walls, an earthen floor, is not climate controled and allows the seasonal variations to affect the casks and the spirit contained therein. Does this impart a different flavour and character than warehousing in a large, climate-controlled industrial warehouse? I have no idea. But this whisky is really, really good. And at just under $60 CAD, it's by far the best value-for-money whisky I've ever had. I wouldn't bat an eye if this malt was priced $20 higher. I'd be sad, but I'd still buy it.
- Nose (undiluted): demerara sugar, malt (barley), peat smoke, red fruit (raspberries), green apples, herbal notes in the background.
- Palate (undiluted): medium bodied and creamy, sweet vanilla, malt (barley), raspberries, biscuits (tea biscuits or grosses galettes, if you're French-Canadian), mild sherry note, charred oak, peat smoke
- Finish: medium length, fruitiness returning, peat smoke, biscuits, very moreish
Adding water really opened up this whisky. It is really good neat. It is incredible with a small splash of water (1/2 a teaspoon with 1 1/2 to 2 oz of whisky). The nose becomes much fruitier and more focused. Grilled pineapple appears on the nose right after the raspberries. The vague "herbal note" on the nose becomes much more akin to cardamom. The taste becomes fruitier and "clearer" as well. You don't really lose any of the nice creaminess of the body, and the fruit becomes evident. I usually notice sherried whiskies carry dates, figs or raisins on the palate. Not so with Benromach. The fruit is brighter and more vibrant. The maturation is 80% first-fill bourbon barrels and only 20% ex-sherry casks so this isn't a sherry-bomb by any means. However, the combination works brilliantly. This may be the best whisky bang for your buck I've ever encountered.
My only gripe, and it is an admittedly minor one, is that I'd like this malt at a slightly higher strength. The finish is just a bit shorter than I'd like. Benromach does indeed make a 10 year old at 100 proof (50% ABV) that I'd love to try, but I think the "standard" would benefit from being bottled at 46%. That said, this is a great malt and well worth the sixty bucks, here in the most expensive whisky jurisdiction in the known universe. Highly recommended.