Spirits drinkers are a notoriously loyal bunch, and once they’ve found their favourite dram, they generally stick to it. But London merchant Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR) could be set to inspire a sense of adventure with the launch of its new range of spirits: The Summer Release 2021. The range comprises four Scottish single malts, an Australian whisky, as well as a Caribbean rum.
Each season, BBR reserve spirits manager Doug McIvor and his team select a limited number of casks from its reserves and bottle them – and once they’re gone, they’re gone. For this summer’s range, all are bottled at cask strength, and with the exception of a 20-year-old Highland malt, all are surprisingly youthful, with an 11-year-old Speysider the oldest of the remaining five.
Berry’s reputation for wine is widely known, but it is, in fact, the UK’s oldest independent spirits bottler, having bottled its first own-label spirits in the early 1800s. The design of bottles in the range – a brand-new look – also draws on the merchant’s heritage, with the arched windows of its London home since 1698 etched into the glass and included in the logo.
One of the most intriguing parts of the new range, though, is the new “vice-versa” bottlings – an Islay whisky aged in a Guyana rum cask and a Guyana rum aged in an Islay cask. Rum barrels have long been a happy resting place for whiskies, with the likes of Balvenie Caribbean Cask, but rums are rarely aged in Islay casks, so this is one to keep an eye on.
We got the inside track on each of the six bottlings from Berry Bros & Rudd, along with tasting notes on the new range from spirits expert and Club Oenologique contributor Alice Lascelles.
Berry Bros & Rudd Summer Release 2021
1. Linkwood 2009
46%, £60, 888 bottles
Linkwood is a lesser-known Speyside distillery on the outskirts of Elgin that opened in the 1820s. Known for its light, elegant whiskies, this bottling is just over a decade old, and was aged in a bourbon cask for a touch of spice to accompany the generous fruit.
Alice’s tasting note: “Heady, sweet notes of juicy red apple, marzipan, rose and prune are kept in check by spicy oak and a gently drying tannin – a flamboyant dram that some may find OTT, but I find utterly delightful.”
2. Sutherland 2000
50.4%, £170, 488 bottles
Try as you might, you won’t find a distillery called Sutherland anywhere in Scotland. This is a secret dram whose origins must be kept under wraps, but its origins are in the northern Highlands, and the trademark waxiness of the distillery in question might just give the game away as to the source.
“Honeyed, elegant and softly smoky. Vanilla fudge, nashi pear, woodsmoke and a hint of coastal briny-ness are seasoned with a dusting of soot – an angel with a dirty face. Would be great in a fancy highball.”
3. Lochindaal 2010
60.2%, £200, 225 bottles
Bruichladdich on the island of Islay is best known for its unpeated malts, but when it wants to, it is capable of creating peat monsters, too, as in the case of this big-hitting dram. If the summer weather turns sour, this warm-hearted whisky will do the trick.
“A wild and woolly peat bomb – hot tarmac, lashing rain, key-cutting shops, revving engines, smoked fish and an intense, oily sweetness. A dram of action – one for the hip flask.”
4. Williamson 2014 Guyana Rum finish
65.3%, £80, 254 bottles
Another dram that has been released under a nom de plume, but we do know that Betty Williamson managed Islay distillery Laphroaig for three decades in the mid-1900s, which could be a strong clue to its identity. This shows how well rum and whisky pair up, the Guyana barrel cranking up the warming spicy notes of this peaty whisky.
“A hit of ultra-sweet mint toffees quickly mellows to smouldering beach fires. Then, through the smoke, mouthwatering blackcurrant leaf and lemon emerge, along with warming ginger-nut spice. A complex, evocative dram with a lot to say.”
5. Lark 2016
60.2%, £250, 373 bottles
Bill Lark is a pioneer of whisky Down Under, and created his eponymous distillery in Tasmania in 1992 – the first to open there in more than 150 years. This punchy four-year-old dram is proof that when it comes to whisky, age is merely a number.
“Intensely fruity and chocolatey – like a liqueur chocolate oozing cherry brandy – punctuated with more precise spice notes: cedar, sandalwood and ginger. Would make a very enjoyable digestif.”
6. Guyana Rum 2010 Islay Barrel finish
60.5%, £100, 235 bottles
Rum from Guyana is typically rich, full-bodied and fruity, and this bottling gets an extra spark from 12 months’ additional ageing in an Islay whisky barrel. This would be fantastic served with something sweet and gooey for dessert, such as treacle tart or pecan pie.
“Sassy Guyanese rum and Islay peat find an unlikely alliance in this intriguing spirit, which layers up black chocolate, ginger cake, pineapple and caraway on a bed of treacly tar. A first-rate sipping rum.”