Benromach is the smallest working distillery in Speyside and is located to the north of the town of Forres. Infact, with it's current production level of only 200,000 litres, Benromach is one of the smallest in Scotland with only two people employed to produce their spirit. The distillery was founded in 1898 with the current owners being the independent bottling company Gordon & MacPhail. They took over Benromach in 1993 and the distillery was reopened by Prince Charles, following 10 years of mothballing by the previous owners (mothballing is the term used for the process where production is stopped at a distillery, but all the equipment remains intact and ready to go again). Gordon & Macphail launched an innovative programme of whisky production including different wine cask finishing, heavily peating some of their malt (a very usual practice for a Speyside distillery) and producing the world's first truly organic whisky. The organic whisky is certified as such by The Soil Association and involves using organically grown Scottish barley and yeast, pure local spring water and untreated and unused American oak casks. They are not allowed to use casks that have previously carried another spirit (such as bourbon or sherry as all other distilleries use) to be classed as organic.
The result of their innovation was the release of this organic whisky for the first time in 2006 and it remains the only one on the market at this current time. Other distilleries have now produced organic whisky to meet the consumer demand but these are still too young to be released. This whisky is roughly seven years old and the colour is golden brown with a nose is more reminiscent of an American bourbon than a Scottish malt. The nose is loaded with oak, vanilla and coconut and these form the basis of the palate also. more subtle notes start to come through on the palate, including some butterscotch, some dried fruit (think of sultanas and candied peel) and sweet malted barley. The finish is long, smooth and rich with the vanilla, coconut and dried fruit slowly fading. This is a very good whisky and it has laid down a tough marker for the other organic whiskies that will soon be on the market. It is quite bourbon-like, but this is no bad thing and is due to the use of the fresh wood used in the maturation. Well worth a try, especially at the bargain price (well, for an organic product anyway!) of £30-35 per bottle.