Monday, December 21, 2015

Lassie's top 10 memorable drams for 2015 - #5 Now that's a cracker!

In June of 2015 I had the utmost pleasure of touring the Benromach Distillery with Richard Urqhart. It has a long history like many of the others in Scotland but it had a really rocky start. Construction did indeed start in 1898 but spirits didn't start to flow until 1900 and within that same year closed down due to insufficient funds = Whisky bust #1. Like other scottish distilleries it passed through many sets of hands from then until 1983 when it suffered yet another closure from the second economic slump = Whisky bust #2 (I easily found 17 distilleries listed as closed between 1981-1985).  

Gordon & MacPhail bought the distillery in 1993, carefully restored it and new spirit started to flow again in 1998. What I love the most about the story is that G&M have been in business for themselves for over 120 years but had never actually owned or operated a distillery. I would bet my best bottle of whisky this was a huge learning curve for them and came with many interesting stories and lessons. However, if we take into consideration the reputation, pride and quality of their independent bottlings I don't think it comes as a surprise that Benromach whiskies were bound to be great in their own right. 

I was honoured to walk through the refurbished distillery, meet the people who make the whisky and discover just how proud they are about their whiskies. It's truly a small, hands on, up close and personal experience with every mash, distillation and casking. I've said it before, many of the distilleries I've toured are now automated with computers making the decisions about temperatures, pH, cuts and they have very little human interaction other than someone ensuring they are there to push a button or check a computer monitor. I've quickly noticed that many of my favourite whiskies these past few years have been the ones that still have a human connection. has a fantastic little video if you would like to learn a little more about them:

The example I love to give that brings this home for me is making my grandmother's meat pies at Christmas. There is no written recipe and it was taught by feel, taste and sight. I know it's two parts beef for every part pork and that I have to add two onions the size of my fists for every three pounds of meat. I can also tell you exactly when I have to add the cubed potatoes and what color or texture I'm looking for when I start to get the mixture ready to put in the pie crust. The flavour is memorized and of course the pies vary from year to year. There is no set times to cook it, no set list of spices. It's truly a handmade and unique experience every single time I make them and I as well as anyone in my family can tell you they are fabulous & 10X better than what we could buy at the local grocery store.

That's how I feel about a few distilleries I've talked about before: AnCnoc, Springbank, Tomatin and now Benromach joins their ranks. There is much to be said about people who care and are invested in something they are proud of. Methods are passed down from one person to the next and it's done in a way that promotes the importance of quality NOT quantity. I feel it is highly reflected in the products these distilleries make. 

Dram #5 and one of my favourite new drams for 2015:

Benromach 15, 43% ABV.  Matured in ex-bourbon & sherry casks.

SOPHIA... the most georgeous Italian ;)
I once described this as a tall dark and gorgeous Italian... and with good reason ;)

Nose: Pulls you in the glass, enticing with rich red fruits and spices. Plums smothered in vanilla custard and whipped cream. (Made my mouth water)

Palate: Did not disappoint! The sweetness and rich red fruits are still there followed by some dark decadent chocolate and hints of blood orange. Silky and full bodied, truly delectable. 

Finish: Oddly reminded me of a menthol cigarillo. Herbal, maybe eucalyptus and a bit smoky but not much. Lingers and I would dare say quite refreshing.  

I've had this whisky several times since then and have recommended it to many people. Unfortunately it was very limited in Canada with only one province getting a small amount. They brought it to our local whisky festival and it flew off the shelves in less than 2 hours. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of the lucky ones. So, it will be on my list of to "buy and bring home" from Scotland in the new year. 

There is something quite special about the Benromach's coming to market and I can't wait to see what they come out with next. So far, they have done nothing but make some pretty brilliant whiskies:  The 10, the 100 proof, the 15, the organic and the 1976 have all been real crowd pleasers, well I suppose I can only speak about myself so Lassie cracker drams they are! 

Cheers and tomorrow we go full ISLAY! Bring on #4!!!!!



  1. Benromach is indeed on my shelf. You can find it in Massachusetts when you jaunt on down here in 2015!