We’re celebrating independent bottlers all this week and next here at Master of Malt. And they don’t come any more prestigious than Berry Bros. & Rudd. It’s been selling wines and spirits from its famous shop on St. James’ Street in London since 1698 and in 1923 created Cutty Sark (full story on the 100th anniversary coming soon) blended Scotch whisky specifically for the American market. More recently, this year it announced that it had bought a stake in burgeoning English whisky producer the Cotswolds Distillery.
Introducing Berry Bros The Collective #1
Now Berry Bros has announced a new initiative. Called The Collective, it will be an annual release of spirits from small producers who put sustainability at the heart of what they do. Each bottle has been chosen by Jonny McMillan from BBR and top bartender Mr Lyan. McMillan explained the logic behind the choices:
“There is no set path on the sustainability journey, nor one single solution. The beauty of Collective #1 : The Pioneers is that each distiller has taken a different approach to sustainability, with the strength being in the diversity and combination of practices, making a whole entity, with continuous learnings. We looked to find a broad spectrum of producers from various traditions of whisky and Cognac making with each distiller taking a slightly different approach to sustainability, some focusing on soil health and regenerative farming, others on lowering energy use or green power. For each distiller there is a different solution that fits the location and character of their distillery, together they form a great overview of what’s going on with environmentally pioneering producers.”
Some mouth-watering spirits
It all sounds very worthwhile but what’s even more exciting is the quality of the producers involved including Arbikie and Nc’Nean from Scotland, Westland in America, Belgrove from Tasmania, the Oxford Artisan Distillery, and a lone voice from Cognac Jean-Luc Pasquet. There’s a full list below but these are all vibrant spirits that show how exciting aged spirits are today.
Here’s the full collection
Arbikie has been a pioneer in the production of Scotch rye whisky since 2017. This example was matured in a single sherry hogshead and bottled at 58.3% ABV with no additional colouring or chill-filtration. This is packed with sweet rye spice, crème brûlée and dark chocolate cookies. The distillery uses hydrogen fuel and carbon positive crops.
Ardnamurchan is a single malt distillery from independent bottlers Adelphi, producing whisky in a full-bodied, heavily peated style. The distillery runs on hydroelectric, solar and biomass power managed from its own forestry. Expect big classic West Coast flavours like smoky bacon, wood smoke, and bitter dark chocolate. This was bottled at 59.7% ABV.
You can see what drew Berry Bros to GlenWyvis, it’s a not-for-profit distillery that supports local causes and has its own green power source. And it makes superb whisky too. This came from a single hogshead cask and then finished in a quarter cask before it was bottled up at 53.9% ABV to produce a single malt laden with orchard fruit, biscuity malt notes and spicy vanilla.
Nc’nean will need no introduction to Master of Mat customers. Founded by Annnabel Thomas, it’s been pioneering organic whisky since it began distilling in 2017. This came from a single hogshead and it’s packed full of fruity spirit character like pineapple, pear and apple balanced by notes of marzipan and coconut. It’s bottled at 57.3% ABV like all these whiskies with no added colour or chill-filtration.
Another distillery that we know well and love here at Master of Malt, the Oxford Artisan Distillery uses heritage strains of rye and corn grown locally to produce vibrant distinctive spirits that are impossible to ignore. Here a refill cask which lets the cereal character of the new make shine with bold flavours of dark chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, chilli and pepper. It’s bottled at 54.5% ABV.
Swedish single malt whisky here from a producer that uses innovative techniques to reduce power consumption and waste. The brand practises vacuum distillation and wet milling, and utilises a high-gravity wash. This single malt is made with 40ppm barley and fermented with a Saison yeast – the result is a pungent smoky dram with a full meaty texture.
Pete Bignell makes some of the most distinctive and highly prized whiskies in Tasmania. This rye is full of burnt sugar, salted caramel and vanilla with big rye spice notes. He not only grows his own grain but he’s big on recycling, so much so that he makes his own equipment and his stills are powered by old chip fryer oil. Production is tiny and demand is high so we expect this one to go fast.
Since 2010, Westland has become the biggest name in American single malt which includes pioneering research in barley sustainability. Distilled in 2014, it’s unusual to have an American single malt of such age. It was finished in a single Madeira cask to produce a whiskey that’s thick and fruity with notes of apricot jam, brioche, fudge and chocolate, with a nice punchy 53% ABV.
Shortcross distillery was bult in the Rademon Estate, not far from Belfact, by David and Fiona Boyd Armstrong. All the energy comes from the estate’s own solar and hydro. This release is a classic Irish single pot still (made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley) and it explodes in the mouth with pineapple, grapefruit and mango with a thick creamy cereal texture and lots of spice.
And finally a lone Cognac in the collection. Jean-Luc Pasquet has been farming organically and producing terroir-expressive brandies since 1998. This comes entirely from grapes grown on his estate in Petite Champagne. If you like a fruity Cognac, then you’re in for a treat. It leads with peach and apricot but there’s fresh lime juice and orange peel in here too, rounded off with subtle spice and vanilla notes for a truly gastronomic Cognac.