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Exclusive: First taste of the autumn 2023 spirits releases from Berry Bros & Rudd

The third seasonal spirits release from Berry Bros & Rudd this year features eight new bottles, with a focus on Speyside and rare single malts, including a Christmas-themed bottling. Richard Woodard tastes the new range.

Berry Bros & Rudd has today (7th September) unveiled its autumn release of seven single malt whiskies and one rum. It includes a Dufftown bottling from the mid-1970s and a Christmas-themed Linkwood.

The whisky releases focus largely on Speyside, the engine room of single malt production in Scotland, including two Linkwood expressions, as well as malts from Dufftown, Glenlossie and Balmenach.

There are also single malts from Ledaig – the heavily peated whisky produced at the Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull – and from White Peak Distillery in Derbyshire, a rising star of the burgeoning English whisky scene.

Lastly, the spirits and wine merchant has included its first rum release from the Savanna Distillery on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, which despite its exotic location is a French overseas department and therefore part of the European Union.

‘This year’s autumn release celebrates the outstanding and wholly distinguishable talents of Speyside distillers,’ said Joe Whittaker, global brand ambassador for Berry Bros & Rudd Spirits.

‘For instance, we have two bottlings from Linkwood distillery which could not be more singular, one of which is a Christmas Edition single malt Scotch whisky bottling, Linkwood 2010, that has been finished in a Pedro Ximénez cask.

‘Its flavours epitomise the festive season, making it the quintessential dram to be enjoyed and shared over Christmas,’ he added.

Rare singe malts

The tranche of releases offers the chance to sample whiskies from distilleries that are rarely seen in single malt form, such as Balmenach, Glenlossie and Linkwood. These are all substantial and historic Speyside distilleries, but are mainly used to supply malt to blenders.

Linkwood, located on the outskirts of Elgin, is known for its light, floral and grassy spirit character, and is loved by blenders for the thick texture it acquires with age. There are fairly frequent releases from Elgin-based independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail.

Glenlossie, like Linkwood, is owned by Diageo, the largest Scotch whisky business. Established south of Elgin in 1876, it makes a light but textured spirit – purifiers on the stills help to promote delicacy – and is a major contributor to the company’s blends.

The Balmenach distillery is perhaps more famous for its gin than its whisky – Caorunn Gin is made here. Nonetheless, it’s a favourite of whisky aficionados because of its old-school approach, producing a meaty, characterful spirit thanks to its small stills and worm tub condensers.

The other single malt Scotches in the autumn release are more familiar names: Ledaig owner Burn Stewart Distillers sells core 10- and 18-year-old expressions, plus limited-edition releases.

Dufftown – Diageo’s largest malt distillery before the opening of the vast Roseisle complex in 2010 – is now known for a light, grassy spirit style. Historically it made a nuttier, spicier whisky for use in the hugely successful Bell’s blend.

Berry Bros continues its exploration of the world of rum with the Savanna single cask release from Réunion; and of English whisky with a Wire Works malt from the White Peak Distillery. The first Derbyshire whiskies (made in a 19th-century wire works – hence the name) were only released in 2022, but the distillery is already gaining a good following for its lightly peated, well-balanced drams.

All eight releases are available now from bbrspirits.com.

a bottle of whisky and glass against a pink backgroud

New spirits releases from Berry Bros & Rudd: tasting notes

Balmenach 2011 Cask #121 

At first, a polite, well-spoken example of the lesser-spotted Balmenach. There’s full, waxy lemon and just the merest hint of something darker on the nose – but the palate builds to a punchily meaty, sulphury finale. It’s funky, tangy, characterful, and a taste of Scotch whisky’s past. £75/70cl Alcohol 54.4%

Dufftown 1975 Cask #10430

No sample supplied. £1,000/70cl Alc 40.1%

Glenlossie 2010 Cask #4884

Autumn release, spring whisky. This is grassy, zesty, honeysuckle-fresh with an undertow of light spice (shaved ginger especially). Then the first-fill bourbon cask takes over: sawmill notes, vanilla, buttercream. Punchy, terrific and all the better for being bottled at cask strength. £75/70cl Alc 50.5%

Ledaig 2009 Cask #700327 Oloroso Finish

The smoke here is much more forward. There’s a glimpse of some ripe tropical fruit before the peat blots it out – part-medicinal, part-maritime. The oily texture carries a powerful palate of spiky barbecue flavours: charred pineapple, chilli pork. All in all, fiery and uncompromising. £130/70cl Alc 53.5%

Linkwood 2010 Cask #301235 Pedro Ximénez finish (Christmas Edition)

Some ‘Christmas’ whiskies make the mistake of overdosing on Sherry cask influence. Not this. It’s surprisingly shy on the nose, but the ripe, rounded fruit slowly builds – Valencia orange spiked with clove – alongside fig, treacle and savoury elements to balance the sweetness. £96/70cl Alc 52.4%

Linkwood Small Batch 2013

A sweetheart of a Speysider, with confectionery aromas leading into supple puréed pear, Milky Bar buttons and vanilla icing. The palate keeps things light and breezy, with just a pinch of white pepper and some drier elements from the oak. Water rounds off any hard edges. £75/70cl Alc 46%

Savanna 2016 Cask #10 Red Wine Finish Rum

Now here’s a change of pace. The red wine influence is apparent in the rosy hue, and in the velvety, sweet flavours of ripe plum and damson. There’s highly-polished antique furniture, then light treacle and cola cube. Opulent, seamless and superbly smooth – and it carries the alcohol remarkably well. £85/70cl Alc 65%

Wire Works 2018 Cask #128

The sweet, supple orchard fruit grabs you first, and there’s just a hint of savoury peat on the nose. Silkily textured, the gentle smoke builds and builds, taking on some extra elements from the cask and finishing with an edge of camphor. A slow burner that benefits from a little water. £125/70cl Alc 60.9%

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