Benromach Sassicaia Wood Finish (Speyside) – 45% ABV – $100.15 (LCBO)
This is one that both intrigued and kind of scared me a bit. Intrigued me because I just really love Benromach’s stuff in general, but scared me because I haven’t cared for the scotches I’ve had in the past that tried to marry any amount of peat with a sweet finish (much to my chagrin I have yet to try any of Springbank’s wine finishes!).
Well here we go…
Nose: Oh ya, that’s the familiar Benromach funkiness. A little musty leather, damp tobacco and something a little spicy, a little peppery. If I walked into a manor house library in 19th century Scotland for an after dinner dram this is how I would expect it to smell! Ok, no more daydreaming… Rich toffee and vanilla jump right out, as does a luscious, creamy, malty note. Then there’s the wine finish influence, meshing wonderfully with that light whiff of campfire smoke that Benromach does so well. Sweet raisins and ripe cherries interplay wonderfully with the smoky note.
Palate: Lusciously rich and not quite as sweet on the arrival as the nose would indicate. The cereal notes come through immediately, along with honeyed toffee and vanilla, but are soon joined by the fruity wine notes. Punchier notes of cherry, fig, sweetened cranberries, and raspberry develop. Finally the dry, gentle, smoky note appears along with a little bit of the leathery funk from the nose.
Finish: Light but lingering. Gentle ashy smoke intermix with rum-soaked raisin.
Well, colour me happy!
I’m such a fan of Benromach that I really didn’t want to come across one of their releases that disappointed me. Not only did this not disappoint, it impressed!
Part of what so turned me off my previous attempts to try wine-finished, peaty scotches was the jarring contrast of big peat with extreme sweetness. This, on the other hand, I thought was quite well balanced, particularly for such a young whisky. The peat is gentle but very present while the wine influence is pronounced without being overpowering. All in all an admirable attempt at a unique NAS release.
Now it’s not a perfect scotch by any means and its youth definitely shows through. I wouldn’t describe it as harsh, but it’s definitely youthful and zingy. It’s also not quite as complex as I would have like or, frankly, would have expected after experiencing the nose. The palate was certainly enjoyable, but I missed a lot of the spice and leathery tobacco notes that I experienced on the nose and enjoy so much in other Benromach releases. But hey, all that being said, I still wouldn’t kick this bottle out of bed if I woke up next to it in the morning.
I enjoy trying new things and anything Sassicaia-related certainly falls into that category for me. Kudos to Benromach for another successful experiment and I dearly hope that we can look forward to an age statement version of this finish at some point in the future. Heck, if you blended this whisky with the characteristics of Benromach’s 12 year old release I think you’d have a very impressive scotch.
One day… One day…