Whisky consultant Vic Cameron offered to write a bio of local distilleries, naturally, we wanted to feature Benromach first. Here is the history of our home town distiller, and Vic’s opinion of its whiskies.
Benromach is a famous distillery and whisky brand located in my hometown of Forres, not exactly in the heart of Speyside but definitely a great example of a Speyside dram.
Gently peated, Benromach is known as a traditional Speyside by the now owners, Gordon and MacPhail. ‘Back in the old days’ most Speyside drams were lightly peated due to the more traditional method of malted barley production. Now most drams from our region are unpeated, with Benromach being one of the few exceptions.
Opening at the end of the 19th century in 1898, Benromach worked away happily (albeit with a couple of short gaps in wartime) until 1983 when it was closed (or mothballed as we say in the industry) by the then owners SMD (what would eventually become the giant company now called Diageo).
It sat idle for years until it was acquired in 1993 by Gordon and MacPhail, the world-famous independent bottler from Elgin. The King (as he is now) officially opened the distillery in 1998 and helped lay down the first cask.
The Benromach ‘ethos’
Unlike much of the industry now, Benromach is proudly made by hand. With no automation or computer control, the spirit (remember we make new make spirit in a distillery, not whisky) is produced using four raw materials; water, barley, yeast, and a human touch (as the Benromach marketing narrative tells us).
I have to say I love the ethos and way things work at Benromach. You can stand on one spot in the distillery building and see the mashing, fermentation and distillation all taking place.
On this one spot you can enjoy the sounds and smells coming from the mashtun, washbacks and stills in the traditional way.
And of course, they do make great whisky. Maturation for the single malts is always done in first-fill casks (or virgin casks for the Organic), with some wonderful variations completed in a multitude of wine and other spirit casks for finishing.
There is a dram here for everyone, even if you are not a lover of peat. And the peat is toned down compared to your average Islay malt.
You can visit and see the process, the visitor centre is open all year and just off the A96. It is well worth a visit, both as a local or as a tourist.
About the author
Vic Cameron is a whisky consultant and regular contributor to Visit Forres, and can be contacted on 07738 260550 or [email protected]