Recently, we reviewed an excellent Benromach single cask selected by Whiskybase – and here we have another, but this time it’s for the thriving Carnegie Whisky Cellars in Dornoch.
The thought crossed my mischievous mind that is Benromach now filling the gap for store exclusives that GlenDronach had thoroughly dominated? Remember those days when everyone from the local corner shop to a right-wing American entrepreneur with a passion for golf and building walls, could have their own GlenDronach bottling?
Shop exclusives serve various purposes. They underline a relationship with a distillery, highlight the tastes and preferences of the store itself and offer an exclusive to visitors whether visiting in person or online.
For the Whisky Cellars, it marks a new confidence after a recent start up and an award-winning year.
In fact, these last couple of years have seen a transformation in this coastal town in Sutherland. The Dornoch Castle Hotel acts as a beacon to all whisky enthusiasts with its sublime bar and assortment of whisky treasures. The town now has a distillery and a prosperous vibe thanks to sizeable investment in the old courthouse. New shops have sprung up and the nearby gateway of Invergordon allows a constant ferrying of cruise ship passengers into the town eager to discover Scottish delights and a drop of the auld stuff.
Regulars here will know that Dornoch also has a young whisky festival each October that looks to unite the distilleries in this overlooked region. In the vicinity, Dornoch can count of names such as Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Clynelish and the illustrious Brora. Then lesser-known but equally as diverse distilleries such as Balblair, Teaninich, Invergordon and Glen Ord further south. The 2017 line up of events has been revealed and it marks a scaling back of the ambition and comprehensive nature of the 2016 incarnation. It’s an unfortunate decision for whatever reason, but to ensure a successful whisky festival, you have to offer a variety of events that appeal to a wide range of enthusiasts.
The Gala and routine tastings will cater for the newly versed or slightly interested, whereas throwing open doors to distilleries with special tours and tastings will lay the trap for the most challenging of whisky geeks. Variety is key alongside originality. My only constant criticism has been the format of pigeonholing into a single weekend. You’re forced to make choices whereas a little more time and spacing would have allowed you to participate in more events. For 2017, I expect I’ll be at the bar over the weekend in a fleeting appearance as a whisky mule. On paper, I have a fun whisky tasting event on the Friday in Edinburgh, but more of that another time when the final details are confirmed. Dornoch does pair whisky with food in style and this year’s tasting at the Links House involves a fine series of drams culminating in a 1958 Glen Grant, alongside a bespoke menu.
Fife finally is receiving its own whisky festival. The Kingdom is an overdue destination and a region that is helping to boost the Lowland numbers with several new distilleries now actively reaching the debut of their 3-year-old whisky. It’ll have my support and attendance, with Cupar offering a traditional vibe post event with plenty of eating, drinking and shopping options. Local spirit retailer Luvians providing the retail focus, it has a more local vibe and it remains one of my favourite shops to visit for whisky. The Cupar branch in particular with its shelves stretching as far as the eye can see and up into the troposphere, is a marvellous thing to behold.
The Carnegie Whisky Cellars are more modest in scale but not lacking in ambition. The tasting I participated in during the 2016 Dornoch Festival harboured many delights including that Old Pulteney that still haunts me; one on my hit list once I escape the clutches of Cadenhead’s in 2017. Michael the store manager is very passionate about whisky and a particular enthusiast regarding the historical element. I still need to have that drink the bar one evening after the store closes, but as you know a whisky life is a busy one. This Benromach is bottled at 60% strength and is from a first fill bourbon barrel (410) that produced 225 bottles. It’s available from the shop for £67.95, which in today’s climate noting the No Age Statement onslaught that features no details regarding age (Ardbeg An Oa £49.99, Highland Park Dragon Legend £39.99), seems a fair price.
Benromach 2008 Carnegie Whisky Cellars Review
Colour: pencil shavings
On the nose: smoked almonds and honey drizzled sliced green apples with a grating of lemon. More citrus freshness with grapefruit that mingles well with that day after campfire residue. Yes, there’s a touch of vanilla, olives and with the addition of water more lime, orange and dill notes come forth.
In the mouth: a joyous creamy vanilla followed by caramel and a nutty aspect that moves into melon with a touch of ash. A long and gentle wisp of smoke on the finish, heightened by cracked black pepper. Adding water, more of a coffee roast dynamic comes forth along with a touch of wax.
Another very enjoyable Benromach, underlining the good work that that is going at the distillery. A good balance between the spirit and cask at work with a level of detail present to explore. I find it refreshing to step away from the fancy finishes and sherry wood dominated shelves we see nowadays. There’s something simplistic, humble and life-affirming with a whisky done in the traditional sense.