PODCAST: S2E3 – Benromach 100 Proof

So it’s taken the This Is My Dram team until half way through the second series (that’s over 9 hours of edited audio out there already, folks) to finally get round to reviewing a single malt from Scotland’s most famous and populous distillery region – Speyside. IMG_9199.JPGHey, they’re independently minded guys, just like the company behind this episode’s dram, Gordon & MacPhail. Founded in 1895 by James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail with a shop located on South Street, Elgin the firm began to specialise in bottling single malts in the early 20th Century, and in an age when few distilleries were bottling singles, may have held the largest range in of single malt whiskies in the world in the post-war years. After almost a hundred years of bottling, the company bought Benromach Distillery in 1993 which opened in 1998. As fans of both whisky and music, Andy and Stu couldn’t resist a nice indie label…

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The cask strength whisky is 57% ABV (100 Proof in old money) and impressed Andy and Stu with its rich, sweet nose, spiced fruit palette and oaky, smoky finish. A drop of water revealed another layer of complexity. To find out what they thought of Benromach 100 Proof in full, have a listen to the podcast:

For the playlist, the team gave themselves the seemingly narrow parameters of UK independent record labels before realising, to quote Stu, “practically all the music I own was released by UK independent record labels.” As a result, Andy and Stu were essentially free to select some of their favourite tracks in general, adding to the thoroughly pleasant experience of drinking the Benromach. Music released on Rough Trade, Creation, Mute, XL, 4AD and Ninja Tune sprung forth from the tasting room speakers. Listen to the playlist here:

Also on the podcast, the exciting conclusion of the battle for Dramier League Table jingle in Jingle Wars, as well as the new feature The Relegation Zone. The idea for this feature came about when Andy and Stu realised they hadn’t reviewed a whisky they hadn’t rated so far and this was skewing the table towards a narrow field of high achievers.

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To give a bit more context to the title contenders, the pair resolved to tackle a truly disagreeable dram and it’s fair to say their reaction provides a little more than just context…

BLOG: Hey, Hibiki, you’re so fine…

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”… said someone, once (it’s that kind of specificity that makes this blog so compelling… right?). And he/she had a point.

Suntory Hibiki 17 year held an air of mystique for me since I started to get into Japanese whisky. Not only is it held in very high regard by anyone “in the know”on Japanese whisky, but it also features as the whisky of choice that Bill Murray’s character promotes in one of our favourite films: Lost in Translation. For relaxing times….

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So having flirted with the idea of buying a bottle (it’s currently extremely hard to get hold of for less than £200 in the UK, mostly from overseas websites; It had previously been available for closer to £95 when supplies were still fairly abundant!) I gave up on the idea, and decided this might just be “one that got away”.

Little did I know my chance to try the fabled golden elixir WOULD arise soon after, as I was lucky enough to receive one of the Drinks by the Dram advent calendars in the lead up to Christmas (when else!) 2016. Included within was a dram of the Hibiki 17!

For the purposes of this blog, I also managed to get hold of some Hibiki 21 (suddenly these whiskies don’t seem quite as unattainable.. )

So what did I think of each of these sought after drams, my notes are below:

Hibiki 17

  • Nose: strong fruity honey, apricots
  • Palate: honey nut, very smooth, slight pepper coming through
  • Finish: short/medium (a bit disappointing in truth) and slightly bitter

Hibiki 21

  • Nose: similar to the 17, but more dried fruit and sweet cinnamon
  • Palate: rich and nutty, bit of Bakewell tart
  • Finish: peppery wood and cherry aftertones, long with hints of dark chocolate

So what did I think? Was it worth the build up and anticipation?

Well firstly, both are extremely nice whiskies. So smooth and easy to drink. It’s not always the case that you will prefer the older, more expensive expressions, but in this case I have to say I think the 21 year is more to my taste. The more sherried, peppery notes are right up my street.

As for the 17… we’ll maybe I expected too much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic whisky, but I was kind of expecting it to blow me away.

Would I buy a bottle? If it was still £95 this would be on my shelf tomorrow, but I do think that anything over £150 is vastly overpriced for this particular dram, there are much more exciting and complex drams out there in that price range, and you are paying for the scarcity.

Ironically, I tried this dram twice in a week having waited so long. One of the pubs in Newcastle, the red house (nestled just off the quayside near the Tyne bridge), had a bottle and I was in there on Valentine’s Day after a lovely meal with my wife. I had to buy a dram (a reasonable £12!) and it was the last dram in the bottle so the barman kindly gave me the bottle too, a thing of beauty.

So I think that leaves hibiki 17 in the category of been there/done that/got the bottle. Time for a new elusive whisky to obsess over!

See you next time! Stu