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Bimber distillery was founded in London by Darius Plazewski and Ewelina Chruszczyk, who moved to the city from Poland in 2003.
Darius inherited the skills of a distiller from his Grandfather, who was renowned for producing a Polish moonshine known as Bimber. This vodka-like spirit has been distilled in Poland since the early 19th century and was often used in the old days as currency in times of poverty. During Communist-era martial law the spirit was even seen as a way to fight the system and a symbol of resistance for those who drank it. It is a scenario that bears a remarkable resemblance to the illicit distillers of Scotland, who saw the outlawing of home distillation as English-imposed rule and made it their duty to continue their tradition no matter the consequences.
Despite owning a successful business in West London, Darius harboured a desire to become a fully fledged distiller in his own right, a dream which finally became reality in 2015 with the opening of Bimber – named in honour of his Grandfather and the resourceful, courageous nature of his people.
In order to source the finest of ingredients, Darius and company travelled to farms across the length and breadth of the country before settling on a single farm in Hampshire. From that day forward the entirety of their barley requirements have come from Fordham & Allen with 100% of the malting done on a traditional stone floor at Britain’s oldest maltings in Warminster.
The distillery was completed with the addition of two copper stills named Doris and Astraeus, both of which are direct fired in the most traditional of styles.
Since 2016, Bimber have been releasing a range of products from fruit-infused Vodkas to London Dry Gin but it would seem fair to say that whisky has been at the top of the agenda from the very beginning. The first casks were filled on the 26th of May 2016 which means that many of them have now become, or are fast approaching 3 years old, suggesting that an official bottling may not be too far away…
In the meantime, Bimber sales director Farid Shawish was kind enough to send me a selection of samples including two new makes and four young spirits ranging from 34 to 35 months old. I won’t be reviewing them as such – mainly because I like to take value for money into account in my scores. Since these little beauties haven’t actually been made available to buy, I can’t really give them a score. No harm in sharing a few thoughts on them though.
New Make 60% abv
Smell: Biscuit, barley flour & fresh cut grass with orange & lemon, pineapple & banana.
Taste: Liquorice, aniseed, black pepper, blackcurrant, apple and chocolate digestive biscuits.
Peated New Make 60% abv
Smell: Liquorice, apple, pineapple and banana, fresh mint, charcoal and tobacco smoke.
Taste: Juicy berries, pear, pepper, sea salt, liquorice, malt, menthol and wispy smoke.
Cask no. 7 – 35 month old ‘Virgin Oak’ cask 52.1%
Smell: Vanilla, caramel, maple syrup, apple, perfumed pear, lemon sherbet, tree sap.
Taste: Caramel, toffee apples, vanilla pods, oak, aniseed, ginger and all-spice.
Cask no. 26 – 35 month old ‘Ex-Sherry’ cask 52.9% abv
Smell: Rum & raisin ice cream. Prunes. Menthol & eucalyptus. Cinnamon.
Taste: Salted caramel & maple syrup mask a peppery youth. Floral honey, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cask no. 33 – 34 month old ‘Virgin Oak’ cask 51.3% abv
Smell: Lots of caramel, pear, floral honey and apple with cinnamon and exotic spices.
Taste: Maple syrup, caramel, pepper and bitter oak with a burst of fresh fruit.
Cask no. 38 – 34 month old ‘Ex-Sherry’ cask 53.7% abv
Smell: Vanilla, caramel and toffee. Honey, apple and aniseed.
Taste: Prunes, dates and raisins with caramel, toffee, cinnamon and aniseed.
Some really interesting drams on show here. The new make is a little rough, as you would perhaps expect, but you can still see the potential there. After all, a new make doesn’t need to be a good drink in its own right, it simply has to contain the characteristics to interact with oak and become a fine whisky. What is particularly intriguing is how well it has already matured in under 3 years. The virgin oak casks in particular were a smart move, providing the liquid with an intense wood influence you wouldn’t expect to find in a dram so young. The sherry matured spirit retains more of its youthful fire and needed some water to tone down the heat a little. Nevertheless it seems to have taken quite well to the raisin-y notes of the fortified wine. What I tasted here is by no means a finished product but there’s more than enough to suggest Bimber could become a whisky of real quality in a few years time.
Visit the Bimber website here.