Our very first visit to a Scottish single malt whisky distillery took place in November 2014. As I described in an earlier blog we left our B&B after having a full scottish breakfast. A good walk to the Elgin busstation and then a busride to Forres, home of “the best kept secret in the Speyside”.
A few months ago we received two Benromach samples. Gordon & MacPhail send them to us in order to give our opinion on the new style 10 year old Whisky and the Vintage 1976 Whisky. These samples got us interested to the distillery. Interested enough to make it our first distillery visit in Scotland.
Elgin to Forres by bus is a ride that takes about 25 minutes. If you get out of the bus at Forres central it’s only a 500 yard walk to the distillery with the characteristic red chimney. It’s right across the main road (A96) between Inverness and Aberdeen. We’re welcomed at the visitor centre by Susan Colville and Rebecca Wood. First we’re invited to watch a small film about the history of the distillery anda after that Rebecca guides us through the different stages of Benromach production.
“We don’t just make our whisky by hand; we make it by smell, sound and touch.”
This distillery is operated with clear philosophy. Everything is done by hand and all is done to get a classic Speyside malt. Fruity, spicy and with a lovely hint of smokiness.
About 1500 kilograms of malted barley passes the 101 year old mill to create the grist. The barley sugar is then dissolved in the mashtun using hot water. Three stages and three different temperatures are used to win all of the sugars. The last stage uses water with a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius which afterwards will be used as the first step in the next batch.
The wort then is transported to the wasbacks where the fermentation will take place. The four washbacks are made out of materials from the two original very big washbacks. Two kinds of yeast are used in fermenting te wort. Brewers yeast and distillers yeast make sure the fermentation lasts for the desired period of 90 hours. The result is a distillers beer with an ABV of 8%.
The beer then is distilled in two steps. The washstill delivers the low wines with an ABV of around 20%. The low wines are then distilled in the spirit still until the spirit is distilled to 70%. The foreshots and the feints will not be reused at Benromach. The spirit is brought back to en ABV of 63% before filling the casks at the distillery and storing them in one of the warehouses at the plant.
After finishing the tour there was time for a bit of nosing and tasting. First we tried the 10yo. Of course we had had it a few times already but it wouldn’t hurt trying again… A lovely mix of flavours. Vanilla and honey can be detected as well as typical sherry notes all covered with a light smoky blanket.
Next in the line up is the quite new Organic. A totally different taste than the 10yo. All ingrediënts have been especially selected for this whisky and for maturing it virgin oak casks are used. This combination gives us a fruity and spicy and also a malty taste. This one is not smoky but it tastes quite well for a young whisky.
We end the tasting with the 10yo 100 Proof. Basically it’s the same whisky as the 10yo but it has a higher ABV. (57% VS 43%) Nosing and tasting give the same characteristics which is understandable because it’s made the same way. 80% of the used casks has been used as Bourbon barrels, 20% was used in the Sherry production. These casks hold the new make spirit for a period of 9 years and then de casks are mixed. The married whisky is then reracked into first fill Oloroso casks to finish for a period of 12 to 18 months. We tasted the 100 Proof earlier in Amersfoort and we don’t regret tasting it again…
Did this blog get you interested in the Benromach Distillery? I recommend you visit it yourself sometime. If you like to learn more in advance, please watch this: