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Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bros & Rudd began life as the widow Bourne’s grocer at No 3 St James Street in London, all the way back in 1698. By 1810, however, the store was under the ownership of George Berry and when his sons took over in 1845, it became known as Berry Brothers.
The shop has received two royal warrants over the years and counts Lord Byron and William Pitt the Younger as former customers. Rudd was added to the name in the first half of the 20th century, when Hugh Rudd left his family business in Norwich to become a partner.
Despite almost being destroyed in the London blitz of World War II, Berry Bros & Rudd continues to operate from the same premises on St James St where the widow Bourne established her grocer, more than three centuries ago.
As well as trading in the finest wines and spirits, Berry Bros & Rudd operate an independent bottling business, releasing single cask whiskies from Scotland and beyond.
The nice folks at Berrys very kindly sent me a selection of samples from their 2021 winter releases.
To read part 1of my review please visit here.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the whisky featured in this review 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.
Craigellachie 2010 (60.6%)
Craigellachie distillery stands at the heart of the famous Speyside region, in the village of the same name. Its single malt is renowned for the robust, meaty character that comes as a result of the high sulphur content of the new make spirit.
Distilled 2010 and bottled 2021 at 60.6%.
Smell: The first sniff reveals a generous helping of struck-match sulphur. Charred casks. Barbecue coals. Meaty. Honey. Then comes fruit – both fresh and dried. Apple and pear but also juicy raisins and sultanas. Milk chocolate. Hazelnut. Unlit cigars. Water releases a touch of lemon freshness. Some vanilla fudge after a good half hour in the glass.
Taste: Straight away there’s sherry with lots of warming spice. Walnut. Chocolate. Brown sugar. Really pleasing weight to the liquid. With water there’s some rich caramel and toffee. Touch of peppery spice remains throughout but never overpowers.
Thoughts: Sometimes Speyside whiskies miss my mark. Not through any fault of theirs but simply because they’re too delicate and refined for my barbaric Glaswegian palate. This is not one of those whiskies. This is a big sulphur bomb that tastes a bit like it was forged in the fires of Mount Doom. That I can get onboard with. Great stuff. In fact, probably the pick of the batch.
Value for money: If you like big, bold, challenging flavours, this Craigellachie is well worth a punt at £80 a bottle.
Glentauchers 1996 (48.9%)
Glentauchers was one of many Speyside distilleries built during the whisky boom of the late-19th century. Surviving the early 20th century bust that became known as the Pattison Crash, the distillery was taken over by Buchanan’s. In the 1980s, Allied Distillers put a halt to production but the stills were fired up once more in 1989. Today the distillery is owned by Pernod Ricard with much of its output serving blends like Ballantine’s and Teacher’s.
This single cask of Glentauchers was distilled in 1996 and matured in a hogshead until 2021. It has been bottled at 48.9%.
Smell: Fresh fruit. Lemon and pear. Caramel and runny honey. Wood varnish. Digestive biscuit. Pencil shavings. Sawdust and freshly worked oak. Subtle baking spices. A classic old Speyside nose.
Taste: Caramel and toffee. A touch of oak followed by black pepper. Apple and pear. Lemon curd. More oak as it moves into the finish. Water brought a little oiliness to the texture and brought out even more fruits.
Thoughts: Plenty of fresh fruit and the whisky has retained a little bit of the character of the malt. It also manages to subtly show its age with an undercurrent of oak – without ever swamping the delicate spirit. Nothing particularly unusual but a well executed example of the older Speyside style.
Value for money: Coming back to what I said in my notes for the previous dram, softer Speyside whiskies just don’t excite me much. I can see this is a good dram and I enjoyed my sample but it just doesn’t hold enough appeal to have me paying £170 for it. That said, it seems a reasonable price compared to other 25-year-old whiskies. Should work out well for you, if old Speyside is your thing.
Caol Ila Small Batch 2010 (46%)
With a capacity around 6,000,000 litres per annum, Caol Ila is the largest distillery on Islay and one of the largest in Diageo‘s extensive portfolio. It’s an industrial shed of a distillery and doesn’t inspire the adoration of many of its neighbours but the spirit produced at Caol Ila is as consistently good as you will find anywhere.
This vatting of three casks was distilled in 2010 and matured in hogsheads before being bottled in 2021 at 46%.
Smell: Big coastal smoke with bonfire ash on the sea breeze. Lots of brine and bluster. Seashells and salty air… and all the other clichés you can think of. There’s also vanilla buttercream. Salted caramel. Cinnamon and pepper. After water was added there was a note reminiscent of Love Hearts, those little candy sweets with dubious romantic messages in the centre. Dollop of honey, too. Over time the nose turns creamier with some nice malty notes.
Taste: Surprisingly rich in caramel and big vanilla notes despite a light feel on the palate. Sure enough the smoke soon cuts through. An oily smoke like the fumes of an old puffer ship (according to someone who’s never smelled an old puffer ship). Black pepper. Liquorice. Charred oak. Soft, smoky finish. Water brought some orange zest out of the oak.
Thoughts: A big robust nose leads to a light-bodied yet fully flavoured dram. 46% makes for a pleasant easy-drinking strength – though I’d have loved to see it at the full intensity of its cask strength. A delicious drop that should hit the spot for fans of the style.
Value for money: Maybe you could argue the price is a wee bit on the steep side at £70? Given that it’s been reduced to 46%? I don’t think it’s too far off the mark though and the quality of the whisky can probably stand up to it.
For more on Berry Bros & Rudd visit here