We’ve always rated Berry Bros & Rudd as excellent independent bottlers, so we were delighted recently to receive samples of some of their recent bottlings covering a spread of ages and vintages ranging from 1983 to 2002. Without further ado, here’s Tim’s tasting notes for five of the crop. You can check out all the BBR bottlings we’re currently stocking here.
Nose: Immediately recognisable youth, with fresh grass, hay and raw cereal aromas. Lurking lemons, sour green apple, faint notes of sweetpea and pine resin.
Palate: Light-medium in weight with a fresh, crisp texture. The grassy aromas are the strongest, though mid-palate some very fresh lemon juice creeps in, giving racy acidity. There’s also a nice little hazelnut backnote adding some depth. Water mellows the acidity and draws out a pleasing creamy, biscuity flavour.
Finish: Decent length, drying. The green apples return with a hint of unripe pears.
Comment: A textbook, straightforward young Speyside, very reminiscent of a youthful Glenlivet. Obviously at this young age you don’t expect a huge amount of complexity, but this is a refreshing, summery dram that likes a small drop of water.
Nose: Very fresh despite the age, even a little nervous, with enticing meadowy aromas on a bed of dried driftwood, with faint vanilla, cinnamon cream, sugared almonds, very faint orange zest, bon-bons and hard icing sugar. Becomes more grassy with time in the glass. In short: classical bourbon-matured Speyside.
Palate: Mediumweight. Clean and lively mouthfeel. Initial acacia honey sweetness, then some old wooden bookshelves as the oak asserts itself. The palate closely follows the nose, with perhaps more emphasis on nutty characteristics: almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts; plus hay and green apple flavours. Water lifts the grassiness from the nose with hints of sweetpea.
Finish: Good length, drying, lemony, a little papery oak towards the end.
Comment: At its best, Glen Keith produces very clean, light, yet powerful distillate perfect for refill hogshead maturation. It needs a long time in such a cask, but the best examples are worth the wait. This is another summery dram that rewards a small drop of water.
Nose: Lovely intense grassy / honey combination to start, then polished mahogany, vanilla custard, raspberry jam spongecake. Develops more on old bookcases, aromatic woods (cedar, sandalwood). The grassiness remains at the top with a hint of honeysuckle and sweetpea. Just the kind of top class nose that immediately lets you know you have a serious whisky in the glass.
Palate: Mediumweight, with a fresh, tingly mouthfeel. A sweet honeyed hit first, then tingling acidity, lemon sherberts, really exquisite polished oak, sugared almonds, the spongecake from the nose, then dry leaves, resin, cocoa powder and furniture polish as the oak muscles in. Develops more patisserie aromas – brioche, pain au raisin, icing sugar etc – then becomes quite spicy. Nice interplay of spirit and wood, with the oak inevitably winning out. A tiny drop of water soothes the wood and renders the palate pretty much flawless.
Finish: Very good length, warming, becoming dry and spicy. In a word: moreish. In two words: Very moreish.
Comment: Seriously impressive whisky from an overlooked Diageo workhorse. A great distillate in a really great cask, aged pretty close to perfection. You can see why so little Teaninich makes it to the independents, there’s nothing not to like here. Sadly, quality like this doesn’t come cheap these days, but this is one long-aged dram that’s worth every penny.
Nose: Oof! A pure blast of very rich, clean, aged sherry. Lots of cake: dark fruit cake, chocolate sponge and homemade gingerbread, burnt raisins, balanced with faint woodsmoke, dry leaves and a very faint hint of bitumen. Enticing stuff.
Palate: Medium-full. Nice rich yet lively texture. Golden syrup, then the gingerbread and fruitcake from the nose, a little woodsmoke again and then hot chocolate, toasted scones and cooked raisins. The smoke becomes a little more prominent with time in the glass. Big and assertive without the faintest suggestion of hotness or harshness even at full strength.
Water’s not really necessary here. I was worried about spoiling the balance, but it actually worked pretty well, in a superfluous way. Stick with full strength.
Finish: Long, warming, dry, sweet and spicy. In a nutshell, it’s lovely.
Comment: It’s immensely encouraging to think that there were still sherry casks of this quality around less than twenty years ago and that there is whisky in many of them that’s just reaching its peak. Delicious now but would certainly have kept for at least for another five or ten years, probably longer.
Nose: A similar profile to the ‘99 – very clean, rich, intense sherry, lots of dark cake aromas, raisin syrup, cooked raisins, some treacly aromas, mulch, wet turf, chocolate syrup and faint rye bread hints.
Palate: Medium-full, quite lively without becoming too hot. Rich and sweet but well-balanced. Quite pruney from the outset, also dates, marinated dark fruit, dark muscovado, damson jam, molasses, all accompanied and balanced by some racy acidity.
Finish: Very good length, juicy, tannic, metallic, warming, very slowly fading sweetness.
Comment: It’s fascinating to taste unofficial bottlings from this distillery, unencumbered as they are by any tenuous back stories, OTT packaging or outlandish price tags. This is very good distillate from a very active sherry cask. It’s a bold, in-your-face dram – not exactly subtle, but it makes the most of its obvious charms, and fans of the style will not be disappointed.
That’s all for now, folks – many thanks again to BBR for the samples of their fine drams and don’t forget you can check out all the Berry Bros & Rudd bottlings we’re currently stocking here.
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