Benromach Contrasts: Air Dried Oak / Kiln Dried Oak

Benromach Contrasts: Air Dried Oak / Kiln Dried Oak

Benromach added two limited edition whiskies to its Contrasts range. In the past they already introduced a Triple Distilled, an Organic version and Cara Gold Malt.

The new combo offers an interesting look at an element of whisky maturation that didn’t get much attention until now: the technique used to dry the wooden staves that make up the casks. On the one hand there is Contrasts Air Dried Oak and on the other hand we have Contrasts Kiln Dried Oak.

Both whiskies (2012 vintage) start with virgin oak. The Air Dried Oak expression was air dried for three years prior to toasting the staves. The Kiln Dried Oak version was air dried for two years and then put into a kiln to speed up the drying process. Small changes that have a significant effect on the flavours, according to the distillery. Kiln drying increases the interaction between spirit and wood. Let’s find out.


Benromach Contrasts: Air Dried Oak (46%, OB 2023)

Nose: that specific mix of paraffin, slightly tropical fruits like mineolas and lime, with hints of plaster. Light peaches, a gingery note and biscuity vanilla which combines nicely with the fruity core. Then hints of leather and a delicate puff of smoke. Something (orange) blossomy too.

quite oily, as expected, with more of these citrus notes (sweet lemon, pink grapefruit) as well as lightly honeyed, malty notes. Then black pepper and liquorice, alongside nutmeg and mint tea. Still a whiff of sweet vanilla notes and a lightly floral edge.

Finish: good length, on mint and herbal smoke, with a darker, drying woodiness appearing.

Let’s start by repeating we’re generally not the biggest fans of virgin wood. Still plenty of classic Benromach character comes out though, so that’s good. In this contrasting pair, this air dried expression boasts the nicest all-round balance for me. Available from the distillery website, or Master of Malt or TyndrumWhisky among others.



Benromach Contrasts: Kiln Dried Oak (46%, OB 2023)

Benromach Contrasts: Kiln Dried Oak

Nose: more oaky, if that makes sense, and slightly sharper in a way. Especially the spiciness is dialed up, with clove oil and cinnamon powder. The waxiness is bigger too, while vanilla is not easy to find here. Then hints of mentholated smoke and still a citrusy note, slightly more lemony and less rounded.

Mouth: slightly waxier again, with a minty kind of smoke that I associate with Bowmore, especially with the sweet citrus notes in the background. Then pineapple appears before it goes to ginger and (white) pepper, again showing a bigger spicy side.

Finish: slightly longer, with more plain wood being noticed. Some lingering fruits and a salty touch as well.

This kiln dried version seems a little more oily, smoky and woody. You could mistake this for a light Islay malt, something I wouldn’t necessarily say about the air dried version. I could see myself grabbing either bottle depending on my mood. In any case it’s a really interesting comparison. Every detail matters. Available from the distillery website, or Master of Malt or TyndrumWhisky among others. Score: 86/100