Dynamic Duo 1 – Benromach vs Cragganmore

It has been nearly three years since I first traveled to Berlin – one of those “live wire” global cities that has a palpable pulse of its own. A fellow whisky explorer let me know he was coming from London for the weekend so it made a perfect excuse to pop over for the weekend.

We went to the very well stocked Union Jack whisky bar! Turns out we were lucky to go on a Saturday – one of the two days in a week they are now open.

We were very well taken care of with carefully thought through choices. Our mandate was clear… we wanted to explore – two at a time til the grand finale of something utterly indulgent and extremely rare.

We wanted to start with an “appetizer” duolll something to ease into the evening. Our guide recommended

The thinking was to match to interesting yet ‘lighter’ options to whet our appetites. Particularly with the Cragganmore, we were assured this Distillers Edition is like none other and well worth trying. As for Benromach, we’ve enjoyed many a solid dram from this distillery.

So what did we think?

Cragganmore Distillers Edition (2008/2020) D6572 40%

  • Nose – Dried fruit, light spice with a woody musty malty aroma, mixed with the sweetness was a salty sour caramel. As it opened up further, it revealed orange marmalade with a citrus twist… and with even more time honeysuckle and a touch of hay
  • Palate – A nice spice, more whisky marmalade, woodiness…even resin, sweet spices of clove and black pepper, oily
  • Finish – More of that light spice, dry in a way that prompts you to ‘pucker up’ chased by oak and a touch of sweetness

It had a nice understated quality…. as for the marmalade? It was a distinctly “whisky” marmalade… which worked rather well. There was also much more body than the aromas would have suggested.

Overall it was an enjoyable start and much more interesting that we expected – particularly at a mere 40%.

Benromach 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Citrus oranges and calvados then a bit “woodsy” and beeswax polish, a dash of ginger and then…. after the 1st sip – wow peat?! Like having sweet roasted marshmallows crisped on a campfire, then sour cherries and a hint of sherry
  • Palate – Silky smooth with a lovely peat, elegant and balanced with toffee sweetness and fruity, hint of chocolate
  • Finish – A lovely long finish, truly lovely

Carrying on from the Cragganmore to the Benromach was a good choice! It was like shifting into an antique – it was like opening a lovely 1930 Art Deco cupboard to discover a special treat.

What else do we know? It was matured in 1st fill bourbon and sherry casks. An official bottling that is currently still available.

What do the folks at Benromach have to say?

  • Colour – dark amber
  • Aroma – Aromas of sweet toffee leading to notes of cracked black pepper and peat smoke. Rich forest fruits develop with dark chocolate and dried banana.
  • Palate – Creamy and sweet with ripe apples and an undertone of charred oak. Dark chocolate develops and leads to toasted malt and orange peel with a subtle hint of smoke.
  • Finish – Medium creamy finish with soft smoke and dried fruit

No doubt for us – the Benromach was the winner! What a treat!

If you were curious to try, they are both still available with the Cragganmore currently retailing for approx EUR 53 and the Benromach 15 for approx EUR 70.

As for what next? We had a few more to come…

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Vault Collection – Benromach 10 year 43%

Next up in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a single malt from the Speyside region. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 2: Benromach 10yr 43%

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Red fruits, buiscuity and an immediate waft of gentle peat smoke. Lovely! With time honey ham, lightly smoked apples and sweet meats. Something immediately familiar about this one.
  • Palate: Lovely sweet sherry notes with the gentlest lick of peat. I’m a sucker for this style and balance. Nice mouthfeel despite the low abv. That irresistible sweet savoury note of a bacon and honey combo! Lots of complexity for a 10yr old and top class stuff. This is just a breath behind the Kilkerran 12 which is saying a lot. Now only if it were bottled at 46% and naturally presented!
  • With Water and 20 mins rest, lovely notes of coconut, roasted walnuts and gentle spice along with light bonfire smoke.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with smoke that just lingers along with sweet sherry fruits.

Our guessing game to reveal?

This was a class Scottish act and all of us were unanimous on that. There was a tossup between Benriach and Benromach. One member was bang on with Benromach and sure enough it was that. It just proves yet again that if the focus is on quality and if it is followed up with the right decisions in production (local barley, long fermentation times, top quality wood) then it’s very hard not to have a cracking dram on your hands. It is little or no surprise that the distillery is owned by Gordon & Macphail who in my opinion are the finest independent bottlers in Scotland. Keep up the good work!

Official notes:

  • Nose: Rich sherry with fruit & nut chocolate, delicate spice, green apples, malty biscuit and a touch of light peat smoke.
  • Palate: Juicy raspberries and brambles, sherry, creamy malt and a light peat

The Vault Collection trio:

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Whisky Live 2017 – Benromach

Next up in the Whisky Live Singapore speed tasting was Benromach… Once again, missed a chance to speak with someone from the distillery but was still good to reconnect with the Benromach drams.

Benromach 5 year 40% 

  • Nose – Lightly organic, yoghurt, fruity
  • Palate – Very soft, a little spice
  • Finish – Sweet

It was like we were off to a good start! A nice appetizer style dram, whetting the appetite for more to come…

Benromach Organic (2010/2016) 43% 

  • Nose – Guess what? Yup – quite “organic”, fruits, farm fresh
  • Palate – So smooth, warm fruit, fresh, grows on you…
  • Finish – Cereals, spice

The cereals were light, fresh and balanced.

Benromach Peat Smoke (2007/2016) 46% 

  • Nose – What a lovely puff of smoke… not heavy at all
  • Palate – Happy peat
  • Finish – There but not forceful

More Benromach

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Whisky Live Singapore – Benromach Hermitage 45%

The danger of Whisky Live Singapore is you tease yourself with tempting drams… yet to survive, you have to resist savouring each and every one…

My first swish past the Benromach booth on day 1 was past the prime sampling stage yet left a continued very positive impression and above all – a commitment to return to the delightful Benromach 15 year in another setting.

I returned on day 2 when one of Benromach’s wood finish series joined the mix, more specifically – the Benromach Hermitage (2005/2014) 45%.

It gave the impression of:2016-11-13-benromach-hermitage

  • Nose – Light, bright, fresh crisp fruits, basil
  • Palate – Spice, wood, soft fruits
  • Finish – Bitter, dry with lots of wine tannins

The Hermitage Wood Finish is matured in first fill bourbon casks and is finished for 31 months in casks from the Hermitage Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, in the northern Rhône region of France.

Here’s what the Benromach folks have to say

Without water:

  • Aroma – Swirl your dram around and enjoy those scents of summer… sweet summer fruits, refreshing red apples, and zesty lemon and lime. A touch of vanilla emerges and cinnamon notes develop, underlined by a touch of peat smoke and a peppermint edge.
  • Taste – Sweet and bursting with intense fruit… succulent dark cherry and orange, sharper kiwi and gooseberry… and these combine wonderfully with creamy milk chocolate and a gentle smoky edge.

With water:

  • Aroma – Nose your dram and you may detect lime and grapefruit at first, with hints of delicious toasted malt and sweet vanilla with eucalyptus notes in the background.
  • Taste – At first it’s gently spicy, quickly followed by sweet raspberry and tangerine flavours, and hints of almonds complementing the underlying peat smoke edge. The finish is gloriously long and fruity with a hint of smoke

It would be interesting to try all three wood finishes side by side – Hermitage, Château Cissac and Sassicaia. I’ve contemplated working towards curating a special ‘wood finishes’ tasting session which go beyond the standard oloroso & PX sherry and port finishes to explore other wines and spirits affect on whisky.

While just a teaser, Benromach Hermitage was a welcome first ‘research’ step…

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Whisky Live Singapore – Benromach

During Whisky Live Singapore, you could frequently find me loitering around the Benromach and Gordon & MacPhail booth. There is a passion behind the pursuit for quality that is infectious and admirable.


For a distillery whose whiskies I’ve enjoyed whenever an opportunity arises, I have had relatively few experiences conducive to preparing tasting notes. Whisky Live Singapore was no exception.

2016-11-12-benromach-15By the time I reached the Benromach booth on day 1, I was in sampling ‘over load’ and wasn’t about to waste good whisky on an unappreciative audience. When I did manage to take a break, return to sniff, swish and spit of their collection, my scribbles were lost somewhere along the way.

What I do recall though is that the Benromach 15 year 43% stood out as being exceedingly elegant, refined and beautifully well rounded. At the time, I remember swearing to myself that one day I would acquire a bottle to revisit it properly – just on its own – then share it with our Whisky Ladies in Mumbai.

On day 2, out came the Hermitage wood finish which did manage to make it into my new whisky note pad (post coming soon!).

Interestingly, I returned to Mumbai post Whisky Live to a session in which one of our Whisky Ladies chose Benromach 10 year 100° Proof 57% above all other options from her recent trip to Scotland.

Clearly I am not alone in appreciating what Benromach has to offer!

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Whisky Ladies discover Benromach 100° Proof 57%

Our Whisky Ladies ‘contributors choice‘ evening moved from the Old Pulteney 21 year to an offering from Benromach.

It was recently purchased by one of our Whisky Ladies during her trip to Scotland. She shared how many a dram was sampled before finally settling on this one as THE whisky she wanted to bring back from her trip for the Whisky Ladies in Mumbai.


What did the Whisky Ladies find?

  • Nose – Sweetly smoky – we’ve found our happy place, clear sherry with hickory wood… like the embers of a campfire in the morning, then bananas, stewed fruits
  • Palate – Cherry liquor, the peat is back with spice, salty chocolate fudge, vanilla, liquorice, nicely complex with the different elements swirling about with one sip bringing out more of the creamy fudge and another the cherry berry quality then the next sip the sweet spices and another the peat – what a treat!
  • Finish – A drizzle of honey bacon with dry spices

What did the ladies think?

  • “Quite a coooool whisky”
  • “Something new in every sip!”
  • The whisky you really want to spend an evening with…”

I had recently revisited several rather fine Benromach whiskies at Whisky Live in Singapore and initially was puzzled by all the peat thinking this was the classic 10 year. When discovered it was the 100° Proof, all became clear we were dealing with quite a different avatar!

Whisky ladies experimental evening also featured:

PS – For more details, check out an earlier encounter with this whisky last year … Benromach 100° Proof.

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Benromach 10 year 100° Proof 57%

What do you get when an independent bottler buys their own distillery? Apparently something quite impressive…

Our October 2015 whisky tastings reminded us to go slow, meander through the offerings to let each slowly unfold… we began with the light Aultmore 2000 (bottled by Gordon & MacPhail) and closed our evening with a special 10 year from Gordon & MacPhail’s distillery Benromach.

Benromach 10 year
Benromach 10 year 57% (100° proof)
  • Colour – Deep rich amber
  • Nose – Bang!! Baaaaacon! Salty bacon, life buoy soap, then with just a little time, the intensity of the bacon reduces with a waft of fruit, then fresh cut leaves. Was like flipping a book with the nose shifting quickly through different elements. Over time, a hint of spice emerges then mellows back to barbecue bacon – sweet cured meat
  • Palate – Kashmiri spicy but smooth, not oily, truly amazing with lots of character, a low viscosity, chewy dates, ripe berries, a sense of richness or ‘fullness’, creamy, warms into smoky raisins yum!
  • Finish – Very long and enjoyable spice, some smoke and a little dry ash with bitter almond
  • Water – Yes please! A few drops opens it up. Comments like “Fabulous!” “Absolutely fantastic with water!” It became even more rounded and did not lose its character at all.  Just a couple drops prompted even more bacon to emerge.

Impressions – Clearly mature and complex! A whisky you want to pour and have a long affair with…. This is to end your day. What is most remarkable is how it just kept evolving… Easily a whisky that you could stretch over a long leisurely conversation with a fellow whisky appreciator, interspersing new observations about the whisky with other engaging topics.

Speculation – One member’s immediate reaction was “Islay!” with its peated robust character. Bantered around the possibility of it being 16 years? Reminiscent of a Glendronach 21 Parliament… Thought the alcohol content likely higher than the previous two (Aultmore 46% & Hellyers 46.2%).

Unlike most of our sessions, we held back the whisky reveals until after we tasted all three whiskies….

The reveal – Only a 10 year from a distillery that once upon a time had somewhat indifferent offerings.  Since the Gordon & MacPhail took over, with renewed attention and care, they are now releasing some remarkably good whiskies.
  • Quote – “I can’t believe this is only 10 years!”

If you read the Benromach story… you come to understand that their interpretation of a classic Speyside is the 1960s version when light peat was part of a Speyside’s character.

Here’s what the Benromach folks say about their 100′ proof 10 year:

  • 80% Bourbon barrels, 20% Sherry hogshead. Final year in first fill Oloroso casks

Without water

  • Nose – It has an intense Sherry nose with heaps  of stewed apple, pear and delightful vanilla pod aromas… delicious toasted malt aromas develop and complement an underlying menthol edge.
  • Taste – There’s cracked black pepper with juicy fresh strawberry and raspberry… hints of orange peel and milk chocolate combine with a delicate smoky edge.

With water

  • Nose – It’s fabulous, with initial hints of beeswax polish and peat smoke… followed by sweeter aromas developing with ripe banana and kiwi bound together by honey.
  • Taste – Roll it around your palate and enjoy the sweet and salty effect with ripe banana and blackcurrant flavours. Notice the emerging creamy milk chocolate edge with a long rich finish of lingering subtle smokiness and bonfire embers.

Here’s what others say:

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