Two releases from esteemed wine merchant (and pretty decent independent spirits bottler) Berry Brothers & Rudd, including the first Vin Santo cask finish we've tried.
Berry Bros & Rudd Raasay 2017
This peated 4yo started in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel for an initial three year maturation before being split and re-racked into two quarter casks that previously held Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry. The whisky then spent six months finishing in the quarter casks before being married back together for the end of its maturation.
We're met with prominent yet soft peat, salty sea air, dusty wardrobes, pickling spices alongside a slight tinge of rum funk. The aromas have an impressive way of enveloping your nose, it's one of the most powerful noses we've experienced in a while. After a short while, dried fruits start to appear in the glass, along with creme anglaise and fresh ginger grated on a microplane. There's a slightly sour citrus appearing in the background too, but overall the nose feels fairly balanced.
The palate begins with the citrus from the nose, freshly zested mandarins, following into powerful peatsmoke, smouldering logs and chimney soot. Similar to the nose, the palate is powerful and the smoke lingers on through the lengthy finish. We're also finding fresh red fruits, strawberries and raspberries mostly, that sit behind the hit of peat and earth. Air reveals sweeter flavours of apple skins and dried apricots, alongside a touch of rubber. We're getting a little younger spirit/new make note, but the maturation has done well to cover this up.
Nose (with water)
Water brings out a metallic note, not unpleasant, like copper. There's a meatiness to the peat now, it's like sweet BBQ pork ribs on the smoker. We're also able to pull out some of those red fruits from the undiluted palate. A little more in balance, although less of a blast of peat if that's your thing.
Palate (with water)
The reduced palate is a little thinner, we've lost some nice texture along with some of the stronger peat flavours. The citrus and fruit are still present but we feel the dram has become less complex and interesting when watered down.
The quarter cask maturation has really impacted the spirit, but managed to do so in a harmonious manner. It's a big and bold dram, quite impressive for the age considering we don't get too much of a young spirit flavour. Now it's pricey for a 4 year old whisky, but it's good stuff. We'll go with 7.5/10.
Berry Bros & Rudd Caol Ila 2010 Cask #311758
This release was initially matured in a refill hogshead before being re-casked and finished in a Vin Santo cask. It was bottled at 12yo and 277 bottles were made available.
We're getting the wine cask finish straight off, it's super sweet, apricot, caramel, a touch of nuttiness and molasses. There's some coastal peat here, but it's mellow, and as it spends time in the glass we're getting more tropical fruits - pineapples, lychee and mangoes. There's a touch of nutmeg and cloves in the background, along with toasted walnuts and saltwater.
The palate mirrors the nose in its sweetness.. It's fresh with those tropical mangoes and pineapples at the forefront, mixed in with sugar syrup and vanilla cream. There's the unmistakable Islay coastal peat flavours appearing too, balancing well with the sweeter elements. The mouthfeel has a good, slightly chewy, creamy texture with some zingy lime, salt flakes and oak coming through on a relatively long finish.
Nose (with water)
We're getting a bit more of that classic Caol Ila profile, slightly briney, sea water, coastal peat appearing now, and the wine cask influence has mellowed out somewhat. It's lost something.. we can't quite put our finger on it but it feels a little less complex now.
Palate (with water)
The reduced palate is slightly more bitter, earthy and vegetal. Well roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate and burnt oak dominate, those lighter, zestier, fruity notes seem to have disappeared. It still manages to maintain a good mouthfeel and finish.
If we were given this blind, we wouldn't have guessed it was a Caol Ila. The Vin Santo cask maturation has given it a completely different profile, bringing fresh tropical fruits to the spirit. It's perhaps too sweet, but for us we're really enjoying it. If you like sweeter peated whiskies and wine cask finishes, you won't go wrong in picking this up.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
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