Exploring an Experimental Cask Series from Benromach
Several of our single malt reviews have looked at bottles that spent some time in former wine casks. While sherry casks seem to be the predominant type of oak used in the single malt whisky industry, we are increasingly finding expressions aged in all manner of wine varietals. Most of time distillers and independent bottlers choose to use the wine casks to finish the aging process. In this case, the distiller will use the traditional cask of choice, such as bourbon barrels, for majority of the duration and then transfer the product to the wine casks for the final 12-36 months of maturation. This week we’ll focus on a whisky from Benromach that has been finished in Château Cissac wine casks.
Benromach is another case of a historic distillery that has changed hands and experienced long periods of dormancy. Established in 1898, the distillery is currently owned by Gordon & MacPhail who starting selling new single malt in 1998. The company has positioned Benromach as a classic Speyside single malt. Nonetheless, there are a few aspects that set Benromach apart from the bevy of Speyside distilleries. First, the company relies on manual production techniques—truly a hand crafted whisky. In addition, the malt for Benromach includes a bit of peat smoke, which is uncommon for whisky from Speyside. Given our penchant for peat, we think this is an excellent recipe for a balanced single malt.
Benromach Wood Finish Château Cissac
With the Wood Finish expressions, Benromach has produced a whole line of limited run bottlings finished in different wine casks. The Chateau Cissac firsts spends an undisclosed amount of time in first-fill Bourbon casks and then finishes with 25 months in the Cissac wine casks. Château Cissac is a red wine from Bordeaux that is classified as a Cru Bourgeois. We’ve never tried it, but we’re always excited to try whisky aged in a different type of cask.
On the Eyes: The whisky resembles freshly brewed herbal tea with reddish tones underneath. In the glass, the dram feels lighter but has long lasting, syrupy legs.
On the Nose: At first we picked up the aroma of fresh cut red apples mixed with the slightest hint of smoke. Along with the apples we detected hints of brown sugar and sea salt.
To the Taste: The dram starts sweet but we soon tasted a building flavor of a honey coated cereal. The meat of the flavor is a balance of orchard fruits with rustic bread and a dash of salt.
And the Finish: The finish is where the peated malt makes itself known. The effect is subtle and you might need experience with peated malts to detect it, however the smokiness is there and it mixes with a lingering spiciness that is pleasant and invites you back.
Benromach proved to us that a peated Speyside was as interesting as we had anticipated. The Wood Finish added a lot of flavors and aromas that we wouldn’t have expected coming from a red wine cask, but underneath everything we could smell and taste the grape ethos. We also tasted a lot of the initial ex-bourbon oak. Overall, this expression of the Wood Finish series is easy drinking and quite complex.