The Benromach distillery is Speyside’s smallest and is run by only two distillers. Still they manage to release between 150.000-250.000 liters of alcohol each year. The other day one of my friends left me a half full bottle of Benromach Peat Smoke. This very unique batch has been distilled from malted barley with a phenol level of 53ppm which puts it in the heavy peated category. Generally you say that if it is made of barley of more than 30ppm it is heavily peated, around 20ppm medium peated, and below 15ppm lightly peated. Considering that the nose can detect peaty flavors down to 0.1ppm I was expecting this to be somewhat of a smokebomb. This is not the case though. While I sat there waiting to be overwhelmed by cresols, xylenols, guaiacol, ehtylphenols and other phenolic compounds, notes of honey and vanilla opened up on top of a very gentle bed of smoke. At the same time it delivered generous contributions of liquorices with hints of orange peel followed by a tingy bite that diminished quickly. The absence of the heavy peaty attributes – normally characterized as burnt, smoky, and medicinal flavors – came as a surprise. Nevertheless the peat is still present but very well balanced by fruity and sweet notes that are very common to Benromach. Something that really impress me though is that this very batch was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2012. Seldom have I tasted a whisky below 12 years that was worth drinking.
VERDICT: There are especially three things about this Speyside worth mentioning.
1) The texture is very round and creamy.
2) The combination of the sweet and the smoke works very well.
3) At an age below 12 year I would have expected it to pack a much bigger punch.