The Boat That Rocked

With Dave Broom

Have you ever found yourself in a situation so surreal, you started wondering if you were dreaming?

As we were walking slowly and carefully down a gangplank towards a 68-foot racing yacht, in pissing rain, overshadowed by the Royal Yacht Britannia and with not a soul in sight, we were thinking that was one of those moments. When did I fall asleep? Hopefully not on a bus!

Yet all but a minute later we found ourselves in a situation far more bizarre. We were under the deck, rammed in a tiny room with about 15 other guys, clutching glasses filled to the brims with whisky and listening to Dave Broom, who was telling us all about some clipper race (maybe this is why they invited us on a boat?) and all about the revival of Benromach distillery and its range (now that’s interesting).

Add rocking motion of the boat, quick pace at which Dave was moving on from one whisky to another (big measures, no spitting), heavy rain bombarding the deck… fifteen minutes into the tasting and we were all in the open sea, living on the edge, circumnavigating the globe with just whisky and some sweaty guys as company! Sweet.

You can read more about the yacht (it’s called Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and, to a man’s eye, it’s purple) and the race here! Although it’s only interesting if you’re into boats. And races. And other tiresome activities.

Now maybe just a few words about each whisky we tried (I had a go at making big-time tasting notes but I couldn’t quite keep up)…

Benromach Origins – Distilled 1999, bottled 2008 at 50% ABV (well done!), matured in 1st and 2nd fill American oak ex-sherry casks, distilled from Golden Promise barley (Dave claims this is where Benromach gets its thick creamy texture from). Rather dry, nutty, malty and herbal in character. A touch of smoke. Develops woodier with water. Could argue with the quality to price ratio (£37), but we won’t… the Benromach PR girls would be so disappointed.

Benromach Organic – Someone asked why Benromach don’t go all organic instead of making just limited batches of organic whisky. Benromach people just smiled and shook their heads… you can tell they would love to do just that, but they can’t because of the price of organic barley and other costs. Shame. The whisky itself is interesting. Raisin, pineapple, eucalyptus, banana skin, chalk board, new shoes and cacao is what we agreed on. Thoroughly enjoyable! Around £32.

Benromach Sassicaia Finish – Distilled in 2002, bottled 2009 (a day before we tasted it in fact) at 45% ABV. Finished for 27 months. Interesting pinkish colour. Prominent aromas of white currants, strawberry and mint with cedery and smoky overtones. Beautifully chocolaty finish. Very scarce, sold out in most places.

Benromach Madeira Finish – Finished in Madeira casks for 48 months, which Dave Broom described as ‘secondary maturation’ rather than finish. Sweet but earthy, dried plums, prunes, sloe berry, colouring pencil. Nice. A true bargain of the range at around £27.

Benromach Peat Smoke – Distilled in 2002 from barley peated to 35ppm, matured in 1st fill American oak, bottled in 2008. Wood smoke, grass, ash, earth. A bit citric, well oily in texture. Not a peat bomb unfortunately. £28.95

Benromach 1969 (40 yo) – Between 14th June 1969 and 22nd April 1969 Robert Knox-Johnston performed the first single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe. During his journey, in Benromach distillery in Scotland spirit was distilled and put to rest in an oak cask, only to be bottled and drunk 40 years later in order to commemorate this heroic achievement. The story has it that Knox-Johnston survived long lonely months solely on “corn beef and whisky”. Now that makes a tidy wee marketing loop, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t even matter that he drank Grant’s…
Benromach 1969, which is obviously not available any more, is a splendid super-mature whisky with the nose of floor polish, tomato puree, old rose petals, decaying fruit, molasses and treacle.


Whiskies we tasted on The Boat That Rocked, most of which are available from your local shop or favourite online retailer, prove that limited single malt finished in a quirky cask and reasonably well presented doesn’t have to cost £100, £200 or £300 to make business sense. You can tell that at Benromach they focus on making good whisky, not on sending each other memos.


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