Berry Bros. & Rudd (henceforth referred to as BBR) may be better known as wine merchants but they have long had an association with spirits which, despite last years sale of The Glenrothes brand to Edrington, remains strong due to their independent bottling operation and now even more so with the addition of four blended malts to their range.
The development of this new range was overseen by BBR Spirits Buyer Doug McIvor and BBR Brand Heritage Director Ronnie Cox, who I met on a trip to The Glenrothes distillery, and is genuinely one of the most interesting and engaging people I have met in my whisky adventures thus far.
This new range comprises of a Speyside, an Islay, a Sherry Cask Matured and a Peated Cask Matured expression. Each is bottled at 44.2% abv and has a UK RRP of £32.
Speyside Blended Malt, BBR, 44.2%abv, press sample (available here)
In the glass it appears light straw in colour and leaves thin, quick legs around the glass.
On the nose it is initially quite sweet with elements of fresh peeled peaches and touches of perfume. Given a little time there is a slight herby note that appears alongside some balsa wood.
The palate is honeyed and soft but with a slight woody tang (which takes away from the sweetness somewhat) alongside an undercurrent of green apple. The palate is a little too thin to be creamy in texture, but it does edge towards it.
The finish doesn’t reveal much more other than a little malt and a twist of lemon pepper.
Perhaps not as sweet as I thought it might be and I’m not so sure about the wood notes but it is vibrant and pleasant and I’m perhaps just being nit-picky.
Sherry Cask Matured Blended Malt, BBR, 44.2%abv, press sample (available here)
In the glass it appears quite dark with thicker, teardrop shaped legs.
The nose gives away its sherried nature right away. Black tea with brown sugar and some blood oranges. Red berries, pine resin and some pineapple leaves also make an appearance. There is a slight sulphurous wisp here right at the end.
The palate is mostly dark fruits alongside some tannic tea, all wrapped up in some 90% dark chocolate.
Perhaps not as viscous or as rich as it looks it might be but its certainly not without its charms and is definitely moreish.
Islay Blended Malt, BBR, 44.2%abv, press sample (available here)
Very pale straw in colour, light legs are left in the glass.
On the nose it is softly peated with a mild smoke, a touch of phenols, a woody note reminiscent of pencils, and the mildest whiff of vanilla.
The palate is ashy with a delicious and tangy minerality. The light smoke returns alongside some red fruits and a barbecued banana note pops up (yes, its a thing)
The finish is delicious and lingering and for the first time a slight creamy feeling appears. The ash maintains its position but also we see the introduction of charred vanilla pods.
Peated Cask Matured Blended Malt, BBR, 44.2%abv, press sample (available here)
The colour is a pale golden hue and leaves thin quick legs around the glass.
The nose is softly sooty with some light smoke and some really zesty lemons. Underneath there is fruit cocktail and some solid vanilla.
The palate starts tangy and briny with plenty of fruit and some soft spices. Given time it turns sweet with some melon notes emerging.
The finish is a touch ashy and creamy but has a surprising vanilla pepper twist.
This is by far my standout favourite of the four. Sooty, vibrant and zesty, a little dirty but a little clean at the same time.
When I first looked at the line up I had an order of preference already set in my head (Sherry, Islay, Speyside, Peated) which, after spending some time with them, was practically reversed.
The standout for me is the Peated Cask, followed by the Sherry, the Islay and the Speyside in that order.
I would, however, suggest that at £32 a bottle none represent a bad or even a risky purchase. Each expression is balanced, has a reasonable complexity and is (importantly) great value.
I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying them enough to not easily finish a bottle.
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