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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Benromach Peat Smoke Whisky Review!

The Speyside region isn't renowned for heavily peaty whiskies, but that doesn't mean there aren't any to be found! This example from Benromach, aptly named 'Peat Smoke', is one of the big ones, and is reputed to be one of the best. It is distilled from barley peated to an impressive 67 ppm , a number similar to (or even higher than) that used by the Islay distilleries. Being a Speyside malt though, and being made using local barley and local peat, it is of course rather distinct from your typical Islay. 

Benromach only produce one batch of their 'Peat Smoke' whisky per year, with this latest release being distilled in 2005, and bottled in 2014. This is also their most heavily peated batch yet, at the aforementioned 67ppm, and the first to carry their spunky new packaging. As with all Benromach whisky, Peat Smoke has been matured in first-fill casks, exclusively ex-bourbon in this case. 

I've tasted an older release of this bottling before, albeit at a whisky show, but I remember it as being a stand-out among the mainland offerings. I was also very impressed with Benromach's 10yo offerings, reviewed here , both the 43% and 57% versions, they were both very drinkable and of obvious quality. Will the load of extra peat, and slightly younger age, in this Peat Smoke expression change that? 
Benromach 'Peat Smoke' 2005, 46%, Forres, Speyside, Scotland.
Distilled in 2005, bottled in 2014. Peated to 67ppm phenols prior to distillation, matured in first-fill bourbon casks for 8-9 years. No added colouring, and assuming non-chill filtered, although not stated on label. 

(tasted neat)
Colour: Light gold

Nose: Sweet and fruity, subtle camp-fire smoke. Crisp green apples, white pepper, sweet malt and honey, cigar ash. Smoke is surprisingly subdued for the high ppm. 

Texture: Light and creamy. 

Taste: Much more smoke than found on the nose, but not overpowering, very pleasant. Fresh, sweet malt, and subtle vegetal peat. Some stone fruit and pepper. The smoke is sweet, chewy and fresh, slightly reminiscent of Caol Ila smoke. Very enjoyable and well balanced. 

Finish: Long & quite complex, initially fruity and sweet, then drying as the smoke comes back to the front. Fading slowly with malty biscuits laced with wood smoke. 

Score: 4 out of 5. 

Notes: Very drinkable, very interesting stuff. No surprise that, as with other Benromach single malts, the quality is very obvious. No harshness and no rushed distillation roughness, nice mouthfeel and malty character, with quite a complex finish. Lovely. 

A very interesting take on a heavily peated malt, it may be slightly younger than your average mainland whisky, but it really doesn't matter. In fact if it was older we would lose more peat influence, and nobody wants that! A very good alternative for the peat lover who doesn't enjoy the medicinal and coastal style we get from our beloved Islay.  

Having said that, I would love to see a 57% or cask strength version of Benromach Peat Smoke, to match their 10 year old offerings. I'm sure it would be a real cracker, and a real contender. They do have some other interesting whiskies on the way, including two french red wine cask-finished expressions, which should be very interesting. Keep an eye out for those!

Benromach Peat Smoke is quite widely available, all the major online retailers have it. Be conscious of the batch / vintage you're buying though, and the 2005 release can be found in both the old and new style packaging, so check the label. It's currently on special, albeit in the old packaging, at Nick's for a very good price, so get it while it's hot. 

A big thanks to Ian from Alba Whisky , Benromach's Australian distributor, for the sample!


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