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Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bros & Rudd are one of the oldest wine and spirits retailers in the world. The business has been based at No 3 St James Street, London since 1698, when the widow Bourne first established a grocer. Later it was run by one John Clarke and it was his grandson, George Berry, who’s name came to rest above the door. His sons took over in 1845, with the business becoming known as Berry Brothers.
The property suffered extensive damage during the London blitz of the Second World War but they continued to supply wines and spirits to the people of London and further afield. An extensive rebuild was aided by wine trader, Hugh Rudd, who joined the company after selling his family business in Norwich. From then on, the shop traded as Berry Bros & Rudd.
Today Berry Bros & Rudd not only imports wine and spirits from all over the world but also offers its own range, bottled under an exclusive label. I first encountered their whisky selection at a tasting, all the way back in 2013 and I’ve been a close follower ever since.
Berry Bros & Rudd very kindly sent me a tasting pack featuring some of the drams from their 2021 winter release. I’ll be reviewing some of them below and will cover more in a follow up review.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the whisky featured in this article free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Ruadh Maor 2010 (57.6%)
Ruadh Maor is a name often given to peated spirit produced at The Glenturret. Having visited the distillery in September of last year and taken home a bottle of their 10-year-old Peated Single Malt, I must say I’m excited to try this one.
The single cask was distilled in 2010 and matured in a hogshead until 2021 when it was bottled at a cask strength of 57.6%. Retails for £60 a bottle.
Smell: The peat is there straight away but it’s quite subtle at first. There’s vanilla, heather honey, buttery malt and oatcakes. Pepper. Over time, the intensity of the peat builds and begins to dominate. There’s also some apple, lemon and a touch of lime. Slight medicinal note that reminds me of Germolene.
Taste: Ash and charcoal upfront. Then honeyed malt. Lots of peppery, prickly spice. Apple. Touch of citrus. Liquorice. Big, smoky finish. Wood smoke. Bonfire smoke.
Thoughts: Lovely whisky this. It’s got a pleasant texture – not too heavy, not too light – and the flavour coats the mouth and lingers beautifully. The intensity of the peat almost caught me by surprise. This is no gentle Highland smoke. It’s a full-on peat monster. A damn good one at that.
Value for money: £60 for a 12-year-old cask strength whisky of this quality is great bang for your buck.
Glen Grant 1998 (56.1%)
Glen Grant is an unusual brand in many ways. Entry level bottlings are young and low strength, aimed at the tastes of the Italian market. There are some who wax lyrical about this malt, however, claiming it to be among the very finest of Scotch whiskies. Certainly, older, single cask versions I’ve tried have been of very good quality.
Distilled in 1998, it was aged in a sherry butt until 2021 and bottled at 56.1%.
Smell: Quite a bready nose. Like a warm loaf just out the oven. Baking spices. Apple. Caramel sauce. Dusty oak. Sawdust and pencil shavings. Baked apples. Apple crumble. Lemon curd. Water brought the fruit notes to the forefront.
Taste: Apple and pear up front. Then lots of woody spice takes over. As the spice fades caramel and toffee come through with plenty of oak tannins at the back. Perhaps a little touch of sultana in there too. A splash of water turned the arrival into honey and toned down the intensity of the spice. The finish remained woody but not quite as overpowering as before.
Thoughts: It’s a very satisfying dram but I found that it perhaps lacked… something. Like a surprising feature or a quirk that would raise it from being good to being exceptional. As things stand, it’s still a fine example of its kind but I would need something to really grab me before I spent £200 on a bottle of whisky.
Value for money: Retails at £230, which isn’t cheap, though I doubt you’d find many 24-year-old Glen Grants for less. I enjoyed it but it didn’t wow me enough to have me forking out that kind of money. If old Speyside is your thing, however, you may feel differently.
Penderyn 2013 (57.9%)
Penderyn was the first whisky distillery in Wales. I confess that I haven’t always seen eye to eye with its single malt but I’m always ready to challenge my own opinions. Interestingly, the distillery has its own Madeira Finish bottling. When I first tried it, I thought it was one of the worst whiskies I’d ever come across but revisiting it in recent years I found that I enjoyed it much more. It will be interesting to see how a similar cask strength expression presents itself.
Distilled 2013 and aged in a bourbon barrel before finishing in a Madeira cask. Bottled 2021 at 57.9%.
Smell: Really big aromas from this one. Quite sulphury at first with lots of that struck match / burnt toast character. That soon lifts to reveal walnut, hazelnut and varnished oak furniture. Lots of rich caramel and something that reminds me a bit of hoisin sauce. There’s a touch of rum there too. Banana, maybe? Cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest.
Taste: Caramels and toffee before some chilli pepper spice and a big slab of oak. Again I get that same rum quality I picked up on the nose. More of the walnut too and there’s a lot of warm woody spice coating the mouth on the finish. Water toned down the spice a little and made for a more enjoyable experience, in my opinion. The dram felt better balanced, rather than heat-heavy.
Thoughts: Really interesting one this. The Madeira dominates much more than it does in the official distillery release and makes for a dram full of big flavours. Have Berrys just invented the Madeira bomb? That’s what this feels like. It’s absolutely massive. That said, there’s a nice balance between the oak, the spice and the fruitier notes. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this one but it’s the pick of the batch, so far. Fantastic stuff.
Value for money: Comes with the rather challenging price tag of £120. It’s not all that easy to compare that to other bottlings because there hasn’t been a lot of independently bottled Penderyn that I could find. Certainly it’s quite expensive for the age of the liquid but the quality is very high. I’d go so far as to say exceptional. Having tasted it, I would pay the money. The whisky is good enough to justify the price.
For more on Berry Bros & Rudd visit here