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Benromach distillery is located near Forres in Morayshire and was established in 1898 by the Benromach Distillery Company Ltd, a partnership between Duncan McCallum (then owner of Glen Nevis distillery) and F.W. Brickman, a spirit merchant from Leith. Due to the depression in the Scotch whisky industry the distillery did not start production until 1900 and closed the same year due to lack of funds. In 1911 the distillery was bought by Harvey McNair & Co who continued operations until the beginning of the First World War. After the war Benromach was revived again by brewers but was mothballed in 1931; it was the first distillery in Scotland to install direct oil firing under the stills when it was re-opened in 1937. In 1938 Benromach was acquired by Associated Scottish Distillers Ltd which later became a part of Distillers Company Ltd (DCL). Between 1966 and 1974 the distillery was modernised and continued to run until 1983 when it was officially closed. In 1993 Gordon & MacPhail bought Benromach from United Distillers and in 1997 started to restore the distillery to a working order until it was officially reopened in 1998. The 15-year expression was first released in 2015: it was matured in a combination of (predominantly) ex-sherry casks and of ex-bourbon casks, some of which appear to have been heavily charred.
The nose starts with distinct flavours of sherry and balsamic vinegar. Then there is a touch of rubber (but in a good way), followed by notes of figs and leather. I also got smoke as well as a hint of sawdust. Quite an austere start!
The palate is medium-bodied, chewy and spicy. The flavours are now distinctly smoky and rubbery, and there is more balsamic vinegar, together with notes of vanilla and orange peel.
The finish is long and warming, ending on notes of oranges and white pepper.
I usually am a fan of this style of single malt: an austere character (smoke, leather, sawdust), combined with a distinct sherry influence. However, in this particular case the impact coming from the balsamic vinegar flavours was too heavy for me. A pity, especially so as I had tasted this at Whisky Ships Zurich and had loved it after the first sip!