This week I defy the laws of physics by time-travelling into the future and sampling whisky from a distillery that hasn’t even been built yet…
R & B Distillers are in the process of creating two completely new distilleries, one on the Isle of Raasay and one in the Scottish Borders (R & B = Raasay & Borders). You might wonder what connects these two very different regions and the answer would be very little if not for the ancestry of company co-founder Alasdair Day.
Day’s family tree includes a great-grandfather from the Hebrides while another great-grandfather, Richard Day, was a whisky blender in the Borders town of Coldstream. Richard took work as an office boy at J & A Davidson in 1895 and went on to learn the skills of blending before eventually taking over the business in 1923. Over his many years in the trade he scribbled down copious notes in an accounts ledger known as ‘the Cellar Book’ which is now the valued property of Alasdair and will, I’m sure, be put to good use.
In 2015, R&B ran a campaign asking for members of the public to vote on which town the Borders distillery should be created in. Peebles came out on top and building work is due to start just as soon as work on the sister distillery in Raasay is complete. It will be the first distillery in the area since 1837.
Naturally, building a distillery and then making and maturing whisky is a very slow process so R & B decided to work with an unnamed Highland distillery to create something that would emulate the intended style of the Borders spirit. The whisky is a single grain although unusually it has been made with a 50 – 50 split of wheat and malted barley and eventually finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks then bottled at a whopping, cask strength 57% ABV.
Smell: Really interesting nose… Vanilla, Coconut, Prune, Fig, Chocolate Biscuits, Orange Cream and Apple. The Oloroso influence is subtle but prolonged.
Taste: A lovely silky texture with Vanilla, Cream, Chocolate Orange, Fruit Crumble, Cherry, Raisins and Coconut all combining to give a really delicious mouthful.
Value for Money: On the market around £45 – £50 which is a very fair price for something so unique and full of character.
Score: 46.5 / 50. About the scores…
I think it’s safe to say that most grain whisky on the market has undergone a fairly pedestrian maturation in American Oak casks but this is something altogether different. There’s as much flavour and character here as in any single malt, helped perhaps by the decision to bottle at cask strength. Whisky from the new Borders distillery is a long, long way off but to be blunt, who cares when we have this to sip on while we wait. Great stuff.