Keith Cruickshank – Återskapar gammal Speyside whisky
När vi senast besökte Skottland så var ett av destillerierna vi besökte Benromach. Det var ett mycket trevligt besök och vi vart mycket imponerad både av vad vi såg och det vi fick smaka. Vi beslutade oss därför att intervjua destillerichefen Keith Cruickshank så att han får berätta mer om detta mycket intressanta destilleri som ägs av inte helt okända Gordon & MacPhail. Detta är starten på en temavecka om Benromach här på whiskytower. Vi kommer att recensera fyra olika whiskyutgåvor från dem denna vecka.
Hi Keith, please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Keith Cruickshank and I am the Distillery Manager at Benromach, which is based on the outskirts of Forres in Moray.
How did you get involved in the whisky industry?
I’ve been working in the whisky industry for the past 25 years. I started out working for Chivas Brothers, beginning on the shop floor before moving to become Warehouseman and Distillery Operative, doing a little bit of everything, from cask handling to production, along the way. Then in 1998 I joined Benromach, working for 16 of my 18 years here as Distillery Manager.
How would you describe the house-style of Benromach and guide us through the core range of Benromach?
At Benromach we use the finest natural ingredients and our small team, myself and three distillers, look after the process every step of the way; there are no short cuts to perfection! Making whisky by hand is a rare craft these days. When the Urquhart family of Gordon & MacPhail brought the distillery back to life, they were aiming to revive a pre-1960s Speyside malt; beautifully balanced with a light touch of smoke. And that is exactly what Benromach is known for today.
The classic Benromach range consists of the Benromach 10 Years Old, Benromach 15 Years Old and Benromach 100 ̊ Proof. Amongst our Contrasts range you’ll discover a fully certified Organic single malt and Benromach Peat Smoke, for lovers of a peated single malt. Our Heritage range features some of our rare single malts, perfect for Benromach fans who might like to try something that wee bit different.
What’s your favourite whisky in the core range?
At the moment I would have to say that my favourite is the current Benromach Distillery Exclusive, which is a Vintage 2009, Sherry cask.
However, the 10 Years Old and 15 Years Old will always be up there as my favourite whiskies of all time! The Benromach 10 Years Old is a perfect example of what we do at the distillery and it’s the ideal dram to showcase the classic pre-1960s Speyside character.
You have a very long fermenting at Benromach. How does that affect the flavour of your newmake?
Nothing is ever rushed at Benromach! There are no short cuts – we handcraft our whisky, slowly, the time-honoured way.
Taking our time over the fermentation helps to develop the right quality of spirit; we believe it’s the only way to recreate that classic Speyside character – it’s certainly worth the wait!
What do you think suits the Benromach newmake. Ex bourbon or sherry casks?
Both! We go to the furthest lengths possible to ensure our whisky is perfect, meaning we insist on the highest quality sherry and ex bourbon casks we can find. And we fill every cask by hand.
We take casks from the bodegas of one of the world’s leading sherry houses in Spain: Williams and Humbert. We also have new oak casks made to our exact specifications of thickness of stave and level of charring by Antonio Paez Lobato. Our casks are used to mature sherry for 3 years before they’re emptied and shipped here.
We also select ex-bourbon barrels, which are shipped from America and coopered in Speyside before being sent to Benromach. We keep tight control of the whole maturation process so that the wood holding our spirit lends just the right characteristics.
What’s your proudest moment in your whisky career?
That’s a tricky one to decide. I don’t know if I could pick just one highlight from the past 25 years, but personally I would say that having the opportunity to revive Benromach Distillery and being part of the growth and successes over the years is definitely a big highlight. Also being able to see someone buying a bottle of Benromach and enjoying the whisky we’ve put so much time and effort into creating; that’s very special.
What are your three favourite drams that you have not been involved in?
My three favourites I haven’t been involved in are actually all Benromach expressions too. The 30 Years Old is a fantastic dram, along with the old 15 Years Old, which was distilled before Gordon & MacPhail bought the distillery, and the Benromach Classic 55 Years Old.
Have you tried any Swedish whisky? If so, what did you think of it?
I have indeed. It was incredibly high quality and well made. Those involved in the industry in Sweden are clearly passionate about whisky and it comes across in the product itself.
What’s on the horizon for Benromach?
Here at Benromach it’s about looking ahead at how we’re going to grow and mature. I tend to look at our Benromach range as a family. We can see the difference in age and maturation in each of our expressions, just as we can with a family.
For the industry as a whole I think we need to continue to ensure we are delivering exceptional products to consumers across the world who are seeking authentic, high quality products with real provenance. Single malt whisky fits well with these aspirations. There continues to be exciting opportunities in both emerging and traditional whisky markets, as well the opportunity of attracting new consumers to single malt.
What kind of food do you think suits a dram of Benromach?
I never used to associate whisky with food, I didn’t tend to drink it with a meal for instance. However, I enjoy my whisky with chocolate or cheese, depending on the expression. The Benromach 10 Years Old and 15 Years Old go perfectly with a good quality dark chocolate whereas the Benromach Organic or Peat Smoke complement smoky cheeses wonderfully.
I think if you pair it well, you can get even more flavours from the whisky, and there are so many options when it comes to food and whisky – just explore to find out what you like!
Finally, do you have any whisky advice to our readers?
I’d say keep supporting your whisky industry in Sweden, as well as the wider industry around the world; there is so much to learn in the whisky world so keep exploring!