Benromach Organic Vintage Distilled 2010 Bottled 2016. 43% abv

Benromach Organic Vintage Distilled 2010 Bottled 2016. 43% abv, NIS 280

Around February I received an email relaying the very good news that Gordon and Macphail, Independent whisky bottlers and owners of Benromach distillery, had announced that they had entered the Israeli market. We are slowly beginning to see the bottles appearing on the shelves. I have as yet to see my favourite Benromach though, that being the incredible "Peat Smoke" (reviewed by me here), but Be'ezrat Hashem, it is only a matter of time. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to review for you the Benromach Organic which I bought in Ramat Gan last month but have also seen in the wine store in Efrat "Canyon".

I have already covered the NAS confusion regarding the Benromach Organic (which includes the Peat Smoke expression as well), in my last blog. Before I give you my tasting notes on the “Organic”, I’d like to bring up another thing which confuses me regarding this Benromach release.
Is this Non-Chill-Filtered? The answer is less than crystal clear.
All the reviews I have read say that the Benromach Organic is natural colour and Non-Chill-Filtered. Even better I have an email from the distillery telling me that all Benromach whiskies are all natural colour and non-chill filtered. From my experience, just looking at the marvellous colours, there is no doubt in my mind that the two Benromachs I own, namely the Organic and the Peat Smoke expressions are natural colour. The question I have is regarding chill filtering. It is annoying that Gordon and McPhail do not think it is necessary to state this information on the label which would stop any argument in its tracks.
Despite the emails and the reviewer’s insistence, I am still left in some doubt.
Why you may ask?
Well, the first problem is that the Organic is bottled at only 43% abv! This immediately rings alarm bells.
The reason why the distilleries began chill-filtering in the first place was that at the minimum legal alcohol level of 40% abv, (below this, it cannot be called “Scotch whisky”), when the whisky reaches a low temperature, either by adding water, ice or when the temperature in the room goes down, the whisky will turn misty. Around the 1960s, many Americans, (as the stories go), assumed that there was something wrong with the whisky and refused to drink it. The fact remains that despite the cloudiness, the whisky has certainly not gone off (bad)!
The whisky scientists got to work and found that by filtering through layers of corn paper at low temperature, this was found to remove the minute particles which cause the cloudiness when adding water or ice.
Problem solved?
No! Because that chill-filtering also removes a lot of the natural oils of the whisky and a many flavour notes that come from those particles. This is made all too clear when one does a comparison between a non-chilled filtered and a filtered version of the same whisky. The Non-Chill Filtered whisky has a far greater mouth feel, you can feel the natural viscosity of the barley oils in the mouth which make the whisky taste creamier with more of a body to it. Overall, you get much more flavour with a non-chill filtered whisky due to the presents of these particles.
Now, there are actually different levels of chill-filtering from light to heavy. Light will reduce cloudiness only somewhat but retain a lot of the flavour. Heavy filtering will ensure that even with the addition of ice, the whisky will remain crystal clear.
There is one more important facture to take into consideration and that is that the higher the concentration of alcohol (ABV) of the whisky, the less cloudiness there will also be when adding ice or water as well.
This is why all Non-Chill Filtered whiskies I know are always bottled at a high 46% abv or more as at this alcohol concentration, whisky scientists have found that clouding is now also drastically reduced. (It can however never be totally prevented as with chill-filtering).
With a Non-Chill Filtered whisky, even at 50%+ abv, there will always be a slight cloudiness when adding water. As I said, it is nothing to be concerned about, on the contrary, something to celebrate as this is proof that you are getting the real deal with all its flavours!

Now you see why I am somewhat puzzled by this Benromach Organic. If it is true as they claim that this is Non-Chill Filtered, then why is it bottled at only 43% abv? It makes no sense. Theoretically, at below 46% concentration, this would turn the whisky at least partially if not totally opaque when water or ice is added. And here lies the (ice) crunch. The thing is that on Friday night, we actually added water to the “Organic” expecting to see at least some Scotch Mist! Instead we all observed the whisky remained crystal clear!!
Curiouser and curiouser”, cried Alice.
Chas VeShalom, I am not accusing anyone of disinformation but I would really appreciate an explanation as to how a Non-Chill Filtered whisky, bottled at only 43% abv does not go cloudy when water is added.
Anyway, on with the review…

10 out of 10! The designer who produced the packaging in my opinion, deserves an award. The bright gold colour and unusual shaped box really stands out on the shop shelf. The canister is made from simple sturdy plastic and is the strongest packaging I know for any whisky. I do not intend to do any “drop tests” like you see for mobile phones on YouTube but I would confidently predict that Benromach canisters would come out on top. Even with whiskies that come in metal canisters, when dropped, the metal tops pop off and the bottle slides out. The Benromach has a reinforced base plus a solid plastic top with side ridges which clip in to make a secure seal, moulded to the exact shape of the top of the bottle make for a super solid casing.

The label design is also really elegant but ‘why oh why’ do they not state basic information like Natural Colouring and Chill Filtering? This really lets this quality product down.

As a side point, quite a few reviewers have commented that The new Scapa expressions have almost identical style packaging to Benromach except that the boxes are blue instead of gold. Having bought a Scapa Skiren recently I can confirm this. The main difference, apart from colour and art work, is that the Scapa box is much taller, in fact taller by far than any other whisky I know, which means that it won’t fit on a regular shelf unless it’s the top shelf of course, which I would imagine would be a big problem in a shop as well as at home! Do they really want to relegate their whiskies to the top shelf? Not clever!
If you want to know what a quality single malt matured exclusively in charred American Virgin Oak looks like, then look no further than this. It is an absolutely gorgeous shade of warm toffee and oak colours. Exactly what it should be.

Swirling the whisky around in the glass I notice the alcohol tears, coating the inside of the glass, dropping fairly quickly back into the whisky. Perhaps there is a bit more oily alcohol legs than a chill-filtered whisky but it's difficult to tell.

Smelling Notes:
Last Friday night, Shalom Aleichem, Eiches Chayil and the kid's Brachos said, we all sat down for the Shabbos seuda and after Kiddush, HaMotzei and a very nice Dvar Torah by my youngest son, we sampled the Benromach Organic, along with my dear wife's delicious challa, some salmon and Eggs & Onion Salad.

For a young single malt, the aroma is quite remarkable in its complexity showing layers of intricacy akin to a 10 or even a 15-Year-Old, no doubt due to the quality charred virgin oak which gives the new-make spirit an immediate and dominant injection of flavour. It is clean and well-focused with a rich sweet Cognac Brandy aroma, charcoaled toffee chocolate, Sugar Puffs cereal, malty Horlicks and milky porridge with a hint of soft black pepper and spicy cloves and new pine wood.
What is somewhat missing however, just like the Tomatin 15, is a substantial mouth feel which a non-chill filtered young whisky ought to demonstrate. I would have wanted the whisky to sit in my mouth and display a natural barley oily creaminess just like The Benromach Peat Smoke, Bruichladdich Organic, the Deanston 12 or Lagavulin 12. It wasn’t as if the creaminess was totally missing but simply lacking somewhat. Overall though, the smelling experience is so pleasurable that they can be forgiven for this.

The charcoal of the new virgin oak is not as pronounced as the Talisker Dark Storm which is like chewing on whisky soaked charcoal Barbeque briquettes.

The Benromach is far more balanced than the Talisker showing equal amounts of chocolate toffees, but also a hint of “CafĂ© Afuch” (Upside Coffee as we say in Israel), that is, vanilla cream and coffee Latte with a smoky charcoaled sweetness in the background.

Green fruit fruitiness comes through next with wood spices like cloves and pickling spices with a slight new pine wood taste reminiscent of a “Made in Sweden” chalet lodge cabin you find in the Highlands of Scotland for Self Catering holidays.

The ‘Organic’ needs only a tiny drop of water to bring out fruitier yellow/green notes like cantaloupe melon and soft yellow pair. When the whisky has settled down a bit, this sweet oaky brandy flavour starts to come through as noted in the smelling notes. Finish is a deliciously rich vanilla cream, toffee chocolate with wood spices and a hint of pine wood.

As my family and I sat around the Shabbos table we were all in agreement that this is a very enjoyable and extremely well-mannered single malt which will endear itself to almost everyone and win Benromach a lot of fans here in Israel. It is the perfect introduction to the general Benromach Old 19th century Speyside style.
Unfortunately, so far, all the other Benromach expressions I've seen so far in Israel, which include all the classic “Age Statement” expressions, are all matured in a combination of Ex-Bourbon and very dominant First-Fill Ex-Sherry casks which means that I will not be buying, drinking or reviewing them. When I was at the distillery back in November 2016, they gave me little sample bottles of Ex-Bourbon matured Benromach which they use to marry with Ex-Sherry. I must tell you that they were excellent and it’s a shame they don’t bottle these on their own.

Lastly, whilst we are talking about Benromach, I want to relate to you an incident regarding a rather heated argument I had with a professional kosher caterer in London whilst attending a simcha in a United Synagogue shul, regarding his serving of Benromach’s standard expression, the 10 and 15-Year-Olds.

I pointed out to him that most kashrut authorities today have the policy that if the whisky states “matured in Ex-Sherry” or similar, on the label then they were not approved for the kosher consumer.
Moreover, I asked him in all honesty, being that he was a whisky drinker himself, if he could recognise the heavy sweet sherry influence of the Benromach which he did indeed admit that he could.
However, he argued that he buys these single malts in bulk from a strictly kosher London catering wholesalers, under the supervision of the London Beit Din and if they sold the whisky then it MUST be kosher. End of story!
I continued to argue with him and pointed out the fact that the London Beit Din Kashrut division had issued new guide lines this year regarding single malt whisky, [See here] saying that those who wish to be “makpid” (careful) in their kashrus standards should now certainly avoid all whisky which states sherry maturation on the label.
His response really shocked me. He very cynically expressed his opinion that the London Beit Din only say this in order to promote the single malts which they now receive money for issuing kashrut certification which appear on the whisky label.
I exclaimed in a calm, polite but forceful manner that his cynical view regarding the intentions of the London Beit Din were very disturbing, coming from a professional and religious kosher caterer like himself. No doubt this was the reason he avoided me for the rest of the evening. By the way, apart from the problem with the whisky, the food was excellent.


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