Friday 10 September 2021

Berry Bros & Rudd's new bottle design (and a very special 1989 Bunnahabhain) [Tasted #541]

The whisky world (in particular the Scotch whisky world) talks a lot of provenance and history - as well it should. With whisky distillation legally sanctioned in Scotland in 1823, and distilleries commencing operations very soon thereafter (and many, like Bowmore and Glenturret, well before), there's a rich history to draw upon.

~200 years may seem like an impressively long time to be in business (and let's face it, it is), but it pales in comparison to Berry Bros & Rudd, Britain's oldest wine and spirit merchant who have not only been in operation since 1698, but have traded from the same shop the entire time. 

323 years is an incredibly long time to be in business (especially trading from the same location), but in all that time, Berry Bros have never had their own bottle design, with the "Own Selection" whiskies and spirits using a relatively standard design. Until now...

Launched in July this year, Berry Bros & Rudd's whiskies (and other spirits) now have a bottle worthy of the liquid, with a bespoke design by label designer Stranger and Stranger referencing the Berry Bros & Rudd shop's iconic arched windows.

As Guy Pratt, Design Director from Stranger and Stranger explains:
“The premises on St. James' in the heart of London’s West End is inextricably tied to the history of old London and the host of famous and extraordinary people who have passed through its doors. It was the famous arched windows of the facade that provided a way to express the merchant’s prodigious spirit credentials within the mould of the bottle itself, added to the base of the bottle they echo both the iconic facade and the scalloped decoration you might typically find on a heavy spirits glass. In this way we were able to celebrate the brand and the home it has occupied since 1698 in a single mark. For appreciators of fine spirits who unfortunately cannot visit the shop itself, Berry Bros & Rudd have just brought the shop to you!”

BBR's "Summer Release 2021" series is the first to be bottled in the new design, and features 6 diverse spirits from across the world - 5 Single Casks (a 2010 peated Bruichladdich, 2000 Clyenlish Sutherland, 2014 Guyana rum-finished Laprhoaig Williamson, a 2010 Islay-finished Diamond Rum from Guyana, and (the coolest of all) a 2016 Lark from Tasmania), alongside a "Small batch" whisky in the form of a 2009 12yo Linkwood - at only £60.

When BBR kindly offered to send me something to celebrate the new bottle design, I assumed it would be a few samples of the above - or perhaps even one of the bottles if they were feeling particularly generous. What I didn't expect was an entire bottle of single cask 1989 Bunnahabhain, labelled with my own name (or a slightly misspelt version of it) front and centre, adorning the new bottle design!

Incredibly generous and unexpected! Whiskybase suggests the cask (#5738 from 2015) was originally bottled for Shinanoya, but presumably they didn't take the whole cask, and a few fortunate souls were lucky enough to receive a personalised bottle in the new bottle design.

Of course, as lovely as the new bottle design is, ultimately it's all about the liquid inside, and so to that end, upon receiving the bottle I immediately ripped the cork out and poured myself a dram...and I'm glad I did!

Berry Bros & Rudd Single Cask 1989 Bunnahabhain (43.4% ABV, 1989-2015, 25yo, Hogshead #5738, 1 of 115 bottles Islay Scotland)
Colour: Bright yellow gold.

Nose: Rich yellow fruits - peach, pair, hints of lemon.

Palate: Zesty white chocolate, lemon pie. Creamy vanilla pie. Viscous mouthfeel, with marzipan and yellow jubes.

Finish: Long, with hints of pear and peach.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Extremely drinkable, complex, and entirely enjoyable.

A big thanks to Berry Bros & Rudd for this beautiful personalised gift, and congratulations on a stunning new bottle design and range!


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