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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Single Malt Report: Benromach 1999 Origins Batch No. 2 (Port Pipes)

If you were left scrambled by yesterday's post, I'll clarify: I'm reviewing a few Benromachs this week. Yesterday was the 10yo 100 proof and tomorrow will be the out of production 25 year old. Today, it's batch 2 of the Benromach Origins series.

The good folks at Gordon & MacPhail decided to do some experimentation with the Benromach single malt once they purchased the distillery. Aside from all the winey "Contrasts" bottlings, they have also done a series of heavily peated and organic whiskies. The Origins are sort of their own range. Each batch represents a little tinkering done to the production process as a way to alter the end result. Batch 1 was distilled from Golden Promise barley and was matured in sherry casks. Batch 2 spent its entire life in port pipes. Batch 3 was from Optic barley. Batch 4 was the next round of port pipes. Batch 5 was the next batch of Golden Promise.

The releases started in 2008 and seemed to have ended in 2013. I hope the experiments haven't ended because Benromach tends to do good work, and it would be great to see them push the envelope a little further. Batch #2 was released in 2010. Thank you to Florin (a prince) for this sample.

Distillery: Benromach
Ownership: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Origins
Region: Speyside (Findhorn)
Age: either 10 or 11 years old (1999-2010)
Maturation: Port pipes
Peating: 8ppm (I think)
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Its color is rosy gold. The nose starts off with grape Bubblicious, milk chocolate and tangerines. Beneath those notes lie clay and smoldering hay. Then a raisiny sherry-like note shows up, followed by blackberry jam and cassis. The palate is quite malty and peppery. Tart berries, tawny port, fresh ginger, burnt grains and a growing horseradish bitterness. With time in the glass, it picks up some almonds and dark chocolate. The bitterness gets pretty raw in the finish, though there's plenty of sweet port and raisin residue to provide dimension. There's also some cayenne pepper and "burnt stuff".

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose gets earthier. Some cocoa powder. Blackberry jam, plums, and bread pudding full of raisins. The palate hasn't changed much. The sweetness is a little richer and the bitterness slightly tamer. There's a chocolate-coffee stout note showing up now. The finish is less bitter as well, with more fresh stone fruits and a hint of moss.

While I can't say that all the disparate elements (wine, oak, peat, barley) have fully merged in batch 2 of Benromach's Origins experiments, the whisky is still good and fun. It doesn't come across as heavily produced or tweaked to appeal to every drinker. The bitterness might turn some palates off, but I dig it. The port notes are most appealing in the nose, unless you hate wineskies. Adding water does seem to pull things together a bit and tone down the noise. This has left me interested in the other Origins, so I might pick one of them up if the price is right.

Availability - Not easily found in the US or Europe
Pricing - $70+
Rating - 83