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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. Benromach Organic was first launched in 2006: it is made from biological barley, matured in new American oak barrels from sustainable forests, and meets the rigorous UK Soil Association standards for growing the ingredients, distillation, maturation and bottling. This review refers to the 2008 edition.
The nose is very malty at first, with rich biscuit flavours and lots of oranges. Next, smoke comes to the fore, followed by more oranges and a touch of liquorice. Some dusty notes towards the end.
The palate is medium-bodied and lightly spicy. Vanilla and orange flavours take centre stage, together with a good dose of oak. Then the liquorice is back, followed by earthy and peppery notes.
The finish is of medium length and warming. Oranges and smoke are very prominent now, followed by liquorice and lightly herbal notes.
I am a big admirer of what Gordon & MacPhail have done at Benromach during the past twenty years. In a world where most whisky distilleries are owned by corporate giants it is refreshing to see what entrepreneurs of a smaller scale are up to in the industry. This is a good, solid single malt that, at least for my taste, is slightly too oaky on the palate – no doubt the new oak barrels make themselves heard here. Not my favourite Benromach expression but works well as a change from time to time.