Berry Bros. & Rudd is one of the oldest wine and spirits merchants in the world. In 1698 a widow by the name of Bourne established a grocers at No. 3 St James’s Street, London. Her daughter Elizabeth later married a man named William Pickering and the couple inherited the business when the widow Bourne passed away.
When her husband also died, Elizabeth ran the shop alone until her two sons were of an age to take over the family business. William Jr would later form a partnership with family relation John Clarke and in 1803, Clarke’s grandson George Berry left Exeter at the age of 16 to make the two day journey to London so that he could commence his employment in his Grandfather’s shop. By 1810 it was his name that was displayed above the door.
George became a highly successful merchant and brought an increasing focus on wine and spirits before his sons George Jr and Henry followed in his footsteps, taking over in 1845, the original Berry Brothers whose names remain associated with the business now, almost two centuries later.
Like so many businesses, Berry Brothers struggled through the tumultuous early years of the 20th century, surviving the First World War only to be confronted with Prohibition in the United States. Rather than cursing their luck however, they seized on the opportunity. Their Cutty Sark blended scotch brand had become much in demand in underground American markets and regular shipments were made to the Bahamas where it could be collected by smugglers, willing and able to transport it into the states.
After the War a man by the name of Hugh Rudd left his family business in Norwich and moved to London. His expertise in wine proved invaluable to the business and when it was later listed as a limited company the name was given as Berry Bros. & Rudd.
The Second World War saw thousands of German bombs fall on London, but despite extensive damage to the upper floors, the historic Berry’s store on St. James’s Street survived and remains in operation to this day, in the same spot it was first established by the widow Bourne more than three centuries ago.
I have a bit of a soft spot for Berry Bros & Rudd. The first proper whisky tasting I ever attended (beyond the dram or two I got at the end of distillery tours) was a selection of Berry’s drams at the Good Spirits Co. in Glasgow. Prior to that evening I was reliant on whatever my supermarket stocked, or what bottles I could afford on the odd occasion I was able to visit a distillery but that Berry’s tasting opened my eyes to a world of whisky that I had never encountered before. There were blended malts and single casks from distilleries I’d never even heard of and the quality of experience was superior to most of the bottles I’d come across in any supermarket. That evening, and others like it, played a significant role in the evolving of my whisky hobby from a passing interest to the driving passion it has become. For that reason BB&R will always have a special place in my affections.
Berry’s Sherry Cask Matured Blended Malt Scotch Whisky is bottled at 44.2% and retails around £30 a bottle.
Smell: Raisins and currants. Orange marmalade. Slightest touch of “stuck match” sulphur. Charred oak. Dark chocolate. Caramel. Treacle, brambles and red berries.
Taste: Jamaican ginger cake, raisins, sultanas and cinnamon. Burnt caramel and maple syrup. Oak and over-brewed tea.
Value for Money: Heavily sherry-influenced whisky often comes at a premium so whilst this blended malt fails to provide much in the way of complexity, it is one of the more affordable ways to get that ever-popular sherry hit.
The whisky gets a little lost in the onslaught of sherry and oak but there’s no doubting that the resulting spirit is an enjoyable experience and 44.2% makes for the ideal drinking strength. Great taste, great value, great dram.
For more information on Berry Bros. & Rudd, visit here.
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