This is quite a unique bottling. In 1993, Gordon & MacPhail acquired the distillery, but it took them ’till 2004 to release this “Traditional”. The very first Benromach made by the new regime. Alas, today the traditional is no more, it has been replaced, last year, by the 5yo. For me this is a unique bottling, whereas everybody is coming up with, sometimes, silly names for their Whiskies, Gordon & MacPhail decided otherwise. They mothballed the “Traditional” name and replaced it with the 5yo, yes an age statement, so it’s not a NAS anymore. For some, “5” is a pretty low number, but at least you get a better sense of what to expect. Luckily this trend is gaining momentum as well, since there will be a Lagavulin 8yo shortly, and I expect quite a lot from that one. Back to the “Traditional”. It is said to be 20% first fill Sherry and the rest comes from first fill Bourbon. All first fill casks, so they must have impaired quite some aroma to this young Whisky.
Nose: Barley, butter and lemon water. Very light and does not want to come out of the glass. Hints of Sherry and spicy oak. More barley and grassy notes come next. A bit dull, restrained, as in it doesn’t greet you, popping out of the glass with lots of fresh and citrussy notes. No, it’s restrained, like an English butler. By now, we have gotten used to the slightly peaty and waxy notes, but here it was something of a first. For those of you who know the new 10yo, both the reduced or the 100 proof version, this is definitely family. The peat is typical, and the waxyness of the spirit as well, so for me this is easily recognizable as a modern Benromach. The Cragganmore I reviewed last, had Fino Sherry written all over it, but I have to say, this one has some notes of that kind of Sherry as well. Hints of new make spirit, so a bit immature. There is also something missing here. This is said to be 80% first fill Bourbon, but where then is the vanilla? It’s there but the peaty notes overpower it. Nice.
Taste: Barley again and definitely sugar-water, with some hidden vanilla and paper underneath, did I mention that it is a bit restrained? At first that’s all there is. Soft. Pudding and paper again. Paper-like and peaty bitterness. Fatty. Diluted liquid honey. Hints, really only mere hints of red fruits (from the Sherry I guess). Slightly warming finish, with peat and again a lot of sweetness. Although it has a very light and uneventful (restrained) finish, it does have some staying power. Totally un-complex, which has a slightly different meaning than “simple”. A first offering but not quite there yet. The bitterness stays behind for the aftertaste.
This brings me to the subject of blind tasting, believed to be the most fair of all ways of tasting spirits. First of all, blind tasting is not entirely objective, since the taster is not objective, and not blind for that matter. You also have different moods and different expectations. Second, a blind tasting is usually done with several Whiskies, so you tend to compare the one to the other, both interact with each other, you like one over the other, but what if in a particular flight is this NAS Benromach as well as a Lagavulin 37yo, which would you prefer? I first tasted this in such a flight and my initial score was 65 Points. This time I’m tasting it by itself, and I know what it is. If I’m in the mood for a Whisky like this, I wouldn’t grab the Lagavulin 37yo now would I? Just like every other Whisky out there, every one has their time and place, but yes the Lagavulin is a way better Whisky, with a way better price-tag as well…
This Benromach is young and simple (un-complex). And not every aroma seems to fit, especially in the taste, but it is also light, grassy, citrussy and fresh, as well as peaty and bitter (and sweet). So it has its moment. Some would call it their summer Whisky. Its nice, simple and…restrained.