Friday, 23 November 2012

Berry Bros & Rudd Tweet Tasting

The Whisky Wire's second Tweet Tasting for November, and we were treated to four single cask whiskies from Berry Bros & Rudd.

Berry Bros & Rudd are Britain's oldest wine and spirit merchant, established in the 17th century. Their flagship store has been located at 3 St. James's Street, London since 1698 when it was founded by the Widow Bourne. A supplier to the royal family since the reign of King George III, historic customers have included Lord Byron, William Pitt the Younger and the Aga Khan, and very soon ME.

Berry Bros & Rudd created the Cutty Sark whisky, and pioneered the vintage concept for The Glenrothes single malt Scotch whisky. 

Today members of the Berry and Rudd families continue to own and manage the family-run wine merchant. Berrys' Own Selection Scotch Whisky comprises an extensive range of own-label bottlings of fine and rare vintage Single Malt whiskies including several bottlings at cask strength. 

Berry Bros. & Rudd has supplied fine spirits through our `Berrys' Own Selection' for well over a century, making Berry's one of the earliest Independent bottlers. By 1909, they were offering 1897 Macallan and 1885 Talisker by the gallon or dozen; to name a few.
Four generous samples and a new note book for tastings!
I've tasted a few whiskies from Berry Bros & Rudd before, coming across their stand at the Whisky Lounge Midlands Fest when Rocky introduced me to three great drams that Saturday afternoon.

Unusually the #BerryWhisky Tweet Tasting took place on a Thursday evening, the first time this year anyway, but proceedings as usual started promptly at 1900 and I just made it back from work in the atrocious weather conditions we were experiencing, to get myself sat down in front of the computer with my glasses, samples and note book:
Whisky Discovery #260

Littlemill 1992, 20 Year Old (54.6% abv, Bottled 2012)
Lowland Single Cask Malt Whisky
circa £80.00 70cl

The Littlemill distillery was founded at Bowling to the west of Glasgow on the banks of the river Clyde in the 1770’s and laid claim to being Scotland’s oldest distillery. It ceased producing whisky in 1992 and was dismantled in 1997, the remaining buildings were destroyed by a fire in 2004.

Triple distillation was practised at Littlemill until around 1930, so it's likely that this was not distilled in the true 'Lowland' style, and this would have been distilled in it's final year. I've only tried one Littlemill previously, and that was at the recently Whisky Exchange whisky show.

So What Did I Think?

I found this to be initially dry and  grassy on the nose, but this quickly developed into a damper cut grass note. It slowly evolves with fruit appearing; ripe bananas, soft peaches and a milky chocolate nose. A little longer in the glass and more fruit appears, or perhaps I simply missed it initially, with melons but there's still those damps cuttings underlying and a little spiciness in the background. Returning to the glass later it has become much more floral on the nose and the damp cuttings note has evaporated.

On the palate there is an initial sweetness of soft fruits, peaches and melons again, before the spice builds up then fades to a tea tannin dryness with some honey and lemon.

This is the second Littlemill of my journey and just as impressive. There's not a great deal of Lowland single malt around these days and as well said on the label; 'When excellent examples such as this appear they make Littlemill's sad demise even sadder'

Some of my favourite tweets for this expression

@AnneEJones Floral, apple sponge, runny honey and er... Rice Krispies

@abbeywhisky Definite melon, peach, and possible some ripe banana
@TheWhiskyWire Milkybar buttons floating in a cup of green tea with lemon
@cowfish Nose: Wet flannels, gravel and ferns up front, toffee sweetness, cornflakes, white choc & ginger hiding underneath.
@TIA568B On the nose, quite light, fresh, grassy, spicy, herbal, golden delicious apples and white grapes
@LRWhisky Loving the floral fruit combo wrapped in white chocolate. New version of fruit and nut maybe?
@themisswhisky On the palate: Peach cobbler, pineapple upside down cake, bubblegum and bitter lemon
@greatwhisky German pfeffernusse, more raspberry, more damp ferns (plants, not Cotton or Briton)

Whisky Discovery #261

North of Scotland 1973, 38 Year Old (46% abv Bottled 2012)
Single Cask Grain Whisky
circa £125.00 70cl

The "North of Scotland" distillery was opened in 1958 at Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, the distillery being established from converted brewery buildings, with the interesting twist that it initially produced both Malt Whisky and Grain Whisky from the same column stills. However, this proved to be rather unsuccessful and so after only a few years production was switched to just Grain Whisky.

The distillery was closed in 1980 and finally totally dismantled in 1993.

While Malt Whisky can only be made from barley, Grain Whisky is made from a mixture of grains, typically wheat and maize (corn) and it may also contain barley. Grain whisky is distilled in a continuous column still, also known as Coffey still. Coffey still distillation is generally accepted to yield lighter and less complex flavour than pot still distillation (distinctive to malt whisky).

In Scotland, pure Grain Whisky is seldom bottled, it is typically used in the production of blended whiskies that combine grain and malt whiskies. Occasionally well-aged grain whiskies are released as "single grain whisky".

Scotland is the home to 6 grain distilleries: Cameronbridge, Girvan, Invergordon, North British, Port Dundas and Strathclyde. Together they annually produce six times the amount of malt whisky. Only three of the aforementioned distilleries bottled their own single grain whiskies: Cameron Bridge, Black Barrel (from Girvan) and Invergordon.

So What Did I Think?

I have great memories from 1973 - I was a young schoolboy growing up in Mauritius with golden beaches, sugar cane fields, wild guavas that we used to collect and make jam, and so many other tropical fruits. I was always in the water when ever possible, whether swimming, snorkeling or sailing, it was a wonderful childhood. Amazing to think that this whisky had been laid down to mature at that time!

I initially found this to be rich and spicy and it reminded me of leather armchairs, polished wood, old library books and a 'Bourbonesque' nose. There were coffee notes too, dark sweet coffee (although not black) and similar to the Thai 'Kopiko' sweets. There were fruity notes underneath trying to burst through the richer notes. However after a while in the glass it became much sweeter and lighter with a great deal of spicy vanilla and an almost dark spiced rum note. I am really starting to become rather fond of an aged single grain. Tropical fruits eventually break through too. This is all about the wood and a quality cask was chosen to mature this single grain imparting a complexity of flavours in the nose.

There are bags of vanilla on the palate, though not too sweet and a nice spicy pepper kick. The coffee notes return on the palate and there is a liquorice note towards the end.

There is a lovely glowing warm finish, with a little sweetness and some spicy pepper on the tongue complimenting the vanilla cream.

Some of my favourite tweets for this expression

‏@abbeywhisky First thing I got was boot polish! not in a bad or kinky way!
OliverKlimek Nose: Your trademark old grain nose: Apricot, crème brulee, vanilla
@themisswhisky My first nose note would be simply, "Christmas morning" - I can't say why though...
@EdinburghWhisky Maple syrup poured over a tropical fruit (again) salad. Toffee sweetness too!
@cowfish Dear everyone. Tell no one that old grain is good, the prices are going up too much as it is... Love, Billy
@WorldWhiskyDay Definite crispy bacon and maple syrup with pancakes thing going on!
@whisky4everyone Nose is packed with vanilla, butterscotch, wood spice, bitter orange and waxy furniture polish
@TheWhiskyBoys Taste: sweet soft fruits, fruit trifle, complex & quite delicate, a little mild spicyness
@TheWhiskyWire Definitely getting a coffee note coming through
@TIA568B Lots of cola cubes, maple syrup over tropical fruit, icing sugar on kiwis, a little rummy and some vanilla chewits.
@Rockyajl Good level of wood, not too much for 38yrs. Lovely creamy texture. Bit more fiery than I was expecting though.

Whisky Discovery #262

Isle of Jura 1976, 35 Year Old (53.5% abv Bottled 2012)
Island Single Malt Whisky
circa £199.00 70cl

The inner Hebridean island of Jura lies to the north-east of Islay and takes its name from the Norse gaelic meaning deer island. Today there is a population of some 200 people and 2000 deer. Jura is the sole distillery on the island. I've tasted most of the core range from this distillery, but I think this is my first independent bottling, and certainly my first single cask.

So What Did I Think?

This was distilled in the long hot summer of 1976, who can forget that (if you're old enough to remember anyway) I remember being on Southsea beach in August and there was a plague of Ladybirds - thousands of them floating in the sea at the waters edge. Anyway I digressed a little there. So the mash for this distillation probably used the last available water as we were all on hosepipe bans and bathing with friends in 1976. We learnt that this whisky had been matured in a Sherry hogshead, It was certainly the darkest of the four drams. 

It also had a very complex nose which went on evolving over time. Initially it was quite delicate with a Parma ham note, but slowly as it was teased out it became richer and darker, almost decadent; Dark toffee, damp charcoal, beach hut salty mustiness, furniture polish notes, a little sweet smoke. Rich sherried fruit; raisins and walnuts, a little menthol starts to sneak out too

This was much softer on the palate than I was expecting, with the dark soft toffee again, it's a little malty and fruit comes through by way of dark cherries. There's an intense chili pepper kick that hits the middle of the tongue, only for an instant before sweetening again with liquorice toffee and a tobacco note towards the end. As it starts to fade there is an Earl Grey tea dryness evolving with a light sooty smokiness.

Some of my favourite tweets for this expression

@greatwhisky Wow... this is big... very complex! Anyone else getting some peat smoke?
‏@BBRrob First tiniest hint on the nosing, parma ham (other regional hams are available!)
‏@LRWhisky Heavy nose, rich Victorian smoking rooms, oak panels and a real life game of Cluedo. Decadent
‏@weheartwhisky Someone appears to have replaced my Jura with Ribena. With a garnish of smoked ham. Works for me.
‏@Rockyajl Slight whiff of cheesy feet mixed on with some toffee and nuts. Gorgeous golden colour.
‏@abbeywhisky Another great nose, slight earthy notes along with some leather and spice
‏@TIA568B A nicer nose than I've had from any other Juras, lots of oak, slightly earthy, more wood, maybe a little vegetable matter
‏‏@themisswhisky Big, bold, chewy sweetness (leather dipped in brown sugar) to start, but underlying kalamata olive and chorizo note
‏@OliverKlimek Smoked mackerel garnished with dried figs and sprinkled with hick soy sauce... most unusual but intriguing
‏@ChrisWhiskyman Mature, leafy Oloroso with a light medicinal note and a touch of smoke. Very clean, no sulphur
‏@EdinburghWhisky Brine, old wooden boxes that live in the shed for no reason and aniseed

Whisky Discovery #263

Bunnahabhain 1989, 21 Year Old (46% abv Bottled 2012)
Islay Single Cask Malt Whisky
circa £89.00 70cl

Bunnahabhain translates as “mouth of the river” from the gaelic, the river in question being the Margadale which flows into the Sound of Islay near to the distillery. Although generally a more lightly peated Islay this expression is an exception as it was produced from a batch of stock using barley at a higher level of peat-smoke exposure.

Last weekend I had my first experience of distillery releases tasting both the 12 and 18 Year Old expressions at the Wine & Spirits Show in London. However I have a Signatory Vintage 1997 cask strength heavily peated expression on my shelf, and had another peated expression 'The Sound of Islay' from Cambridge Wines earlier this year

So What Did I Think?

Someone couldn't do the math for the label of this expression. Distilled in 1989 and bottled in 2012, it would be difficult to be a 21 Year Old - it got lost somewhere for a year or two! It must be either a 22 or 23 Year Old depending upon the months, but I don't think it really matters!

I got a light fruity pear drops on the nose initially but it quickly settled down to almonds and icing with the lightest of peat smoke. The nose gets quite spicy after a while in the glass too.

It had a lovely spicy palate with salted nuts, citrus zest and sweet scented smoke. With more time in the glass the palate reveals some herbal grassy notes too, and the sweet scented smoke gets a little sooty. I think this was my favourite of the four tasted this evening, although the Littlemill is a very close second.

Some of my favourite tweets for this expression

@abbeywhisky Liquorice, sweet flavours, almonds, Christmas cake & brandy on the nose
‏@TheWhiskyBoys Nose: gentle smoke, almonds, vanilla
‏@themisswhisky All about the caramel apples for me here. There are these Halloween candies from Canada
‏@TheWhiskyLounge Breath of fresh air after the Jura. Over-ripe banana, slight marzipan, cold salted butter packet, orange pith
‏@LRWhisky Loving the Christmas marzipan on the nose
‏@SohoWhiskyClub Wow! lots of peach, watermelon, rich exotic fruits, grapes, bit of green apple, with some burnt ash type stuff.
‏@cowfish It's all about the starmix - the butteriness is from the fried eggs
‏@EdinburghWhisky Lovely. The almonds and vanilla work so well. The smoke hides a dry lemon zest underneath. Pistachio too!
‏@whisky4everyone The nose of the Bunna 89 is delicate with honey, vanilla, malty cereals, icing sugar, green apple plus hints of brine & banana
‏@greatwhisky Nose is kinda like green fruit gums, very slight peaty goodness, honey on ryvita!
‏@themisswhisky Oh...a beautiful bundle of honey, hickory wood chips, green apples, sea salt and pistachios...lovely!

As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #BerrysWhisky hashtag on twitter for the full story!

Yet another great experience and another highlight of my whisky journey, registering a fabulous four new ‘discoveries’ A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire  Amanda and her team at The Great Whisky Co. @GreatWhisky who organised it all and of course Rob & Adrian from @BerryBrosRudd

This events tweet tasters were:

@TheWhiskyWire @BerryBrosRudd @BBRRob @Rockyajl @TWLEddie @TWLAmanda @TWLJoe @GreatWhisky @ChrisWhiskyman @S_Rob @cowfish @WhiskyTasting @themisswhisky @WorldWhiskyDay @WhiskyDiscovery @TIA568B @LRWhisky @weheartwhisky @TheWhiskyBoys @abbeywhisky @sohowhiskyclub 
@whisky4everyone @AnneEJones @EdinburghWhisky @OliverKlimek @whiskywardrobe @galg

If you want to be included in the next Tweet Tasting make sure you are following @TheWhiskyWire on Twitter to find out what is happening.

For more information see: Don't forget to also check out and for information about Berry Bros & Rudd visit:

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