zondag 23 juni 2013

Tasting Benromach 12 YO Portwood Finish

The Benromach distillery in located in the northern of Forres, just off the A96 in Speyside, Scotland.
Benromach was founded back in 1898 by Duncan MacCallum and F.W. Brickman.
The distillery has an on and off history of production (as many other distilleries by the way). The own floor maltings stopped in 1968 and in 1983 the distillery was closed and dismantled.
Fortunately independent bottlers Gordon and MacPhail (one off the largest, if not the largest in Scotland) saw this as an opportunity for a constant supply of their own malt whisky not far from their head office in Elgin. They decided to buy Benromach in 1993 from United Distillers (Diageo). After this, other independent bottlers followed them by buying (Signatory) or building a distillery (Adelphi).
All new equipment was installed (except for the spirit safe that came from Millburn distillery) and the refurbished distillery was officially opened in 1995 by Prince Charles.
The first bottling from the new production was released in 2004.
Story goes that after going back into production, United Distillers gave Benromach a box of new-make samples from before closure and the spirit character turned out to be quite identical. Only the water was the same.
Although Benromach doesn’t do its own floor maltings anymore, it’s still a handcrafted whisky, being produced by only two men. The measuring of the volume of the casks after filling for example is done with the old gross and tare system (Weighing the casks before filling) instead of using automatic gauges.
The yearly capacity of Benromach is 500,000 litres of alcohol per year, but in 2012 less than 150,000 litres were produced, making Benromach the smallest working distillery in Speyside. The distillery also has a visitor centre awarded four stars by the Scottish Tourist Board.
The good news is that more and more people worldwide are picking up this small batch malt whisky (most of the production is marketed as single malt), so Gordon and MacPhail decided to double production and an extra employee will be added to the current staff.

After this introduction we finally come the tasting notes of this Benromach Port Wood Finish expression.
Benromach has done more Port Wood Finishes, this one is distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2012. It was finished for a period of 8 (!) year in Port Casks. Now this raises the question what is the definition of a finish. Maybe the Scottish Whisky Association could step in.
The whisky is bottled at 45% ABV strength. Just 1460 bottles were released in this batch.
Tasting notes
Nose: soft sweet wine notes (the port is there allright), dried plum, pineapple/coconut (tropical), ashy, smoky
Taste: wine, sweet (with added water even sugarlike), plums again, red fruit jam, smoke, tannins, clove
Finish: wite pepper, medium dry, slightly bitter, warming

Concluding remarks: Benromach fans as we are, we tend to be a bit biased, but this is definitely one of the better port wood finished whiskies. Some port wood finishes simply to have too much of the port character and this one goes very well with the smoky/ashy tones that characterizes Benromach so much. Be quick to get a bottle though, since there are only 1460 (-1..) around.

Whiskypedia - Charles MacLean
The smart guide to single malt scotch whisky - Elizabeth Riley Bell
Malt whisky yearbook 2013 - Ingvar Ronde

©Whiskytips 2013

zondag 2 juni 2013

Celebrating 50 years Han van Wees in the world of whisky

Today over 100 whiskylovers gathered in Amersfoort to celebrate the 50th anniversary of mr Han van Wees in the spirit and whisky-business.
Amersfoort is a city in the heart of the Netherlands and home to the family run business of Van Wees which was founded in 1921.
Van Wees opened up the Dutch market for good quality whisky. A very nice story is the one about a ship with blended whisky, that had sunk in Dutch waters. Van Wees bought the whisky and it proved to be A-quality scotch, intended for the South American market. Since the Dutch had to deal with lesser quality (A- quality went to dollar countries in those days), these bottles sold like hotcakes. However, the importer and producer were not happy with this lot being on the market and bought it back from Van Wees, who made a profitable deal.

Van Wees was also the first company to import Glenfarclas, Springbank and Macallan. They also have very good ties with Gordon and MacPhail, one if not the largest independent bottler in Scotland.
Apart from this, Van Wees releases its own brand of independent bottlings, the Utimate Collection. Most of these bottlings are single cask, for a very good price.
The afternoon was divided in two parts.
The first part kicked off with a nice calvados. Meanwhile mr Van Wees lectured the audience, not only on the history of Van Wees but also on the spirits, that were tasted blindly. So we learned that calvados is not only made from apple, but also from pear.
Some more great spirits from France followed, with an 1972 Armagnac Domaine Boingneres as our personal favourite.
The line up was closed by a 21 YO Whyte and Mackays blended Scotch, which was simply marvellous and a good bridge to the things to come.

Mr Van Wees is never afraid to say the things as he sees them so he wholeheartedly shared his opinion on whisky blends. For him A-quality blends from the sixties are better than most single malts these days.
After lunch we proceeded bravely first with a 1963 Glen Grant bottled by Gordon and Macphail. Now, there is one thing when drinking whisky of such provenance: it gets hard to appreciate a lot of other stuff that’s around, your taste gets somewhat spoiled..
In our case we got spoiled even more, since the second one was a Tamdhu 1962.
Mr Van Wees picked these bottlings because he is convinced that coal fired distilleries, as most of them were in these days, make better whisky than the present steam fired boilers.
So we moved one to another jewel from the sixties, the Strathisla 1964, again a Gordon and Macphail bottling.
Fourth sample was a Glen Avon 1961 apparently produced by Glen Farclas.
After savouring this magnificent dram we tasted the Glen Elgin 1968. Last one was (we thought) a sherried 32 YO Tobermory, a whisky with it’s own definite character.
Then came the surprise malt… a 16 YO Port Ellen, by the Ultimate, one of their own bottlings. Almost impossible to find these days, and if so, only for big money.

This treat was definitely a worthy closure of this memorable day.
We can only hope that the stories mr Van Wees has told and probably many more will be put to paper someday. We did hear that plans are made to make a documentary on the whiskyworld, with mr Van Wees and the Van Wees company with a prominent role in it.
We will keep you posted!

©Whiskytips 2013