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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Things I Really Drink: Benromach 10 vs Benromach 10 vs Benromach 10

(Benromach cluster homepage)

Ah, here we are, the real reason for this cluster, three different bottlings of Benromach 10 year old, with three different labels, and three different bottle shapes. And, yes, all three of today's pours are from my own bottles. There's the maroon-labelled edition, bottled in 2010; the chalky script and small dark label, bottled in August of 2019; and the current edition, with the white and red label, bottled in December 2020. They are all a mix of sherry and bourbon casks, bottled at 43%abv.

Benromach 10-year-old arrived in 2009, ten years after Gordon & MacPhail restarted the stills. The entire range kept the label style seen in the first bottled on the left in the picture below, though in different colors for different expressions. In 2014, Benromach shifted to the style seen in the middle bottle, just as the 15-year-old saw the light of day (or the fluorescents above the shelf). And when the 21-year-old arrived in 2020, the design changed again.

Shifts in packaging design often trigger expectations of changes to the products within, with Talisker and Arran being two examples I've explored previously. It's time to find out how reliable ol' Benromach 10 fared across one decade.

Forres Triplets

Benromach 10 year old
bottled 2010
Benromach 10 year old
bottled Aug 2019
Benromach 10 year old
bottled Dec 2020
Nuts Nuts Nuts to the nose: hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios. Brine, mint, and orange peel mix seamlessly with the peaty smoke. Limes, cantaloupes, and a smoky vanilla bean stay in the background.Lovely smoke blankets the nose. Hot asphalt, dead leaves (and the dirty ground?), and dark chocolate fill the middle. Dried mango and dried cherries emerge with time.This one's nose offers the most obvious Oloroso note, which balances well with an earthy peat. Grape jelly rings and mothballs stay in the background, and an apricot jam note appears after a while.
Much heavier smoke here on the palate, but wait, there's more! Hay, toasted oats, dried currants, dried blueberries, anise, and hint of sweet oranges mingle below.The palate matches the nose's style well. Salty smoke, bitter chocolate, and orange peel up top; tart cherry compote on the bottom. The bitterness and tartness blend and expand after 30ish minutes.It has more honeyed, vanilla US oak on its palate that the other two. But the dried cherries, ultra tart citrus, milk chocolate, and cayenne pepper keep the tannins in check.
It finishes with smoke from a spicy cigar, dark chocolate, and tart limes.The smoke gets sootier in the finish, and has a good industrial touch to it. Hay, bitter citrus, and a smidgeon of sweetness round it out.The sweetest of the three finishes, full of oranges, mellow peat, and a lil' cayenne bite.


Benromach 10 year old, bottled 2010 - Despite almost nine years in a sample bottle, this version has lost no oomph. The nose shows more balance than the busy palate, but everything works. At 43%abv, the whisky is light but not thin, though it does leave me thinking it could have been a real stonker at a higher strength.

Benromach 10 year old, bottled Aug 2019 - This terrific batch is as stellar as a 21st century 10yo 43%abv single malt can get. Yeah, it might have been better at 46%, but everything works so seamlessly here that I'm not going to grouse about it. Salt, smoke, bitterness, tartness, and sweetness all caught in a neat little delivery, perfect for this autumn. To think I bought this for $29.99, and to think I bought only one bottle.

Benromach 10 year old, bottled Dec 2020 - The most obvious and simplest of the trio, this batch seems to be composed of more active casks. Thanks to Benromach's spirit, it's still a good drink. Yet if the distillery pushes the oak any further, a very good single malt could be wrecked. I hope the blending team can get back to the 2019's style, and maybe they have in the three years since this batch. It'd be a shame for Benromach to join The Industry's ongoing oak extraction competition.

(In bigger news, Suzy Creamcheese actually stood still for a moment to express my very feelings about the winning batch. She's more difficult to photograph than the Loch Ness Monster, though more accurate at the litter box.)

All three of these bottlings proved to be very good, and thanks to the 43%abv, I was able to finish a Taste Off Trio without being knocked out for the night. Each batch had its own character, though the first two possessed what some of us consider an "old school" style, with fruits integrating well with moderate-yet-industrial peat, and very little oak intrusion. The 2020 bottling departs from that approach, leaning more towards a cask-led contemporary style. Yet, according to Winesearcher's analytics, the 10's average price, worldwide, is the same as it was nine years ago. So I expect I'll keep bottles of this in the stash, at the ready, for years to come.

Benromach 10 year old, bottled 2010 - 85
Benromach 10 year old, bottled Aug 2019 - 89
Benromach 10 year old, bottled Dec 2020 - 84

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