Scotland – Benromach Distillery
Benromach is the smallest distillery in Speyside, operated by just two men, and uses only two stills – in stark comparison to Glenfiddich, which I visited earlier. I’m not going to teach you the minutiae of whisky- making (hurray, you say?), but the wash still produces the low wines, which are then distilled a second time in the spirit still (the one that has a ‘bubble’ half way up the neck to further cycle the alcohol). Because it would not be wise to photograph in the possibly explosive atmosphere during distillation (the smells were GORGEOUS), the photograph of the stills here is taken from the Benromach website. (Copyright to this particular photo rests with them, therefore, and I’ll remove it if they ask).
I learned all of these things and more from the lovely Katrina, who gave me a personal tour of the distillery. Katrina was extremely informative in a gorgeous accent, and taught me quite a few things that I didn’t know already.
The tour began in the museum containing several historic artefacts used in whisky-making as well as a facility to bottle your own ten-year-old. Katrina took me clearly through the process of manufacture including a look below the stills where coal fires used to be burned to heat the liquids above. The cask warehouse held row upon row of casks of the various sizes used at Benromach (see behind Katrina up there? That’s the three sizes they use). Different head colours show how often each cask had been used; they are retired after three uses. When the distillery re-opened in 1998, Prince Charles signed a cask, which was to the forefront. Katrina whacked his signature with a wooden mallet to demonstrate how they test for leakages. Black stains at the top of the walls showed where the Angel’s Share had condensed over the years, and would not be cleaned off in case the fumes from cleaning products contaminated the whisky being stored there.
Back to the Visitors Centre after I had exhausted my questions, for a tasting of the Benromach ten-year-old. Those of you who know me well will be aware of my prediliction for the Islay whisky Laphroaig, a peaty spirit. The Benromach whiskies are nowhere near as peaty, although the ten-year-old did have a delicate peat-smoke influence. The nose put me in mind of biscuits.
I also tried two other whiskies, but the one which won me over was the Organic Special Edition. The nose is fruity with a dash of toffee, and the taste is malty, slightly smoky, and again with that subtle hint of toffee. That’s what I bought.
To sum up – Benromach: Best. Tour. Ever. Thank you Katrina. Dear Reader, if you’re in Speyside ever, make sure you go there.