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Whisky from the future?
This week I defy the laws of physics by 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. The first is on the Isle of Raasay, the second in the Scottish Borders (R & B = Raasay & Borders). You might wonder what connects these two very different areas and the answer would be very little, if not for the ancestry of company co-founder Alasdair Day.
It seems that Day’s family tree includes a great-grandfather of Hebridean descent while another great-grandfather, one Richard Day, was employed as a whisky blender in the Borders town of Coldstream.
Richard Day started work as an office boy at J & A Davidson in 1895 but soon learnt the skills of the blender, before eventually taking over the business in 1923. Over his many years in the trade he scribbled copious notes in an accounts ledger that became known as ‘the Cellar Book’ and is now the valued property of Alasdair.
In 2015, R&B ran a campaign asking for members of the public to vote for the town they would like to see the distillery situated in. In the end, Peebles came out on top and building work is likely to begin some time after work is completed at the sister distillery in Raasay.*
Naturally, building a distillery and producing it’s whisky is a very slow process, so R&B decided to work with an undisclosed Highland distillery to create something that would emulate the intended style of their Borders spirit. The resulting dram is a single grain whisky which has been finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks before bottling at a whopping 57% abv.
*Some time after this article was published, R&B Distillers announced that they had shelved plans for their Borders distillery. The Borders Single Grain has since been discontinued.
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.
Thoughts: It’s on the market for around £45 – £50 which is a fair price for something so unique and full of character. I don’t think it would be unfair to say that most of the grain whisky on the market has undergone a fairly straightforward maturation in American Oak casks, but here is something altogether different. You still get that creamy grain character but it works well with some dried fruit / sherry notes. Certainly, there’s as much flavour and character here as in any single malt. Helped, no doubt, by the decision to bottle at cask strength. Whisky from this new distillery may be a long, long way off but if this dram truly reflects the quality we can expect from the completed project, it will be more than worth the wait.