This week we’ll be looking at Nant – one of the most critically acclaimed distilleries on Tasmania, with high profile fans including legendary whisky commentator Jim Murray.
It began in 2004, when Brisbane-based property developer Keith Batt purchased the Nant Estate, just an hour from Hobart. This ancient estate was built in around 1821, and since the 2004 purchase, it has been lovingly and carefully restored with an investment of some $5 million. The result is arrestingly beautiful; a stunning estate surrounded by breathtakingly scenic countryside.
In 1920, Berry’s was joined by Hugh Rudd, a lover of Bordeaux and German wines. Such an essential part of the business, Hugh Rudd’s name was officially added to the door when the firm became a limited company in the 1940s.
The Second World War raged on, and tragedy struck when two of the partners lost their sons: Francis Berry’s son George Gilbert died leading a charge against in the enemy in North Africa; and Hugh Rudd’s son Brian was killed in action in Italy at just 20 years of age.
No. 3 was never hit directly during the London bombings, though the top floors were badly burnt. The shop itself escaped too much damage thanks to the old wooden shutters which protected the shopfront. Years later, during the 2011 London Riots, these shutters were put to use for a second time (though, in my opinion, Pomerol probably wasn’t on the agenda).
The first George Berry was born in 1787 and, at the impressionable age of 16, made the two-day journey from Exeter to London, in which city he remained. He would become an extremely successful merchant, maintaining a clear focus on wine and spirits – a tradition continued by his sons George Jr. and Henry – the original “Berry Brothers” who took the helm in 1845.
Berry’s young life was not without event. In 1838, he signed up as a special constable during the Chartist riots, alongside his friend, the future Napoleon III. Years later, whilst in exile in London, Napoleon used the very cellars at No. 3 to hold secret meetings. Two storeys below terra, the marvellous stone-walled chamber bears his name, and is home to a collection of ancient bottles from centuries ago, back when a member of the gentry would have his own glass bottle stamped with his seal. The sealed bottles would be taken to No.3 to be filled with wine or spirit, and returned when they were empty. Napoleon’s own bottle still stands in one corner.
Earlier this year, I became rather enamoured with what is arguably the drinks world’s most prestigious address – No. 3 St James’s – home to the wine and spirits merchant, Berry Brothers and Rudd (known henceforth variously as BBR or Berry’s).
This springtime love affair all started with a ‘three martini lunch’ on a surprisingly balmy day in February. I arrived fashionably late at No. 3 and climbed a steep wooden staircase through a locked door at the back of the shop to meet a group of familiar faces from spirits retail. The event’s hosts were BBR’s charming spirits man, Doug McIvor, and Glenrothes’ brand ambassador and gifted raconteur, Ronnie Cox.
So – it’s that time of year again isn’t it? I checked my calendar the other day, and realised it’s 6 weeks until Feis Ile. 6 weeks. I’ve got no idea who’s stealing all the time, but as whoever it is takes with one hand, they surely give with the other – we’re only 7 weeks away from the release of this year’s Ardbeg Day special edition.
This year’s offering is called ‘Auriverdes’ – a portmanteau of the latin ‘Aurum’ (Gold) and Portuguese ‘Verdes’ (Green) – Gold for the colour of the whisky, and Green for the iconic green* bottle in which Ardbeg is presented.
Why Portuguese, I hear you ask? Well apparently there’s some sort of kickball tourney on later this year in Brazil? Not really my sort of thing, but I’m sure Jake will use it as an excuse to bore the crap out of you / keep you entertained (delete per your preference).
UPDATE: You can now find Redbreast 21 Year Old on the site here!
Last night saw the launch of a brand new Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey expression to join a range that already contains the excellent Redbreast 12 Year Old, Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength and Redbreast 15 Year Old.
I know what you’re thinking: “What is the collective noun for robins?”. It’s a worm. A worm of robins. Yep.
The new expression? A 21 Year Old! We were more than a little excited. The Dave Broom quote on the Redbreast website sums it up nicely:
“If the ship was going down within sight of a desert island, my flailing left hand would make a grab for a bottle of Redbreast.”
The Hudson Whiskey range boasts the first legally distilled and aged grain spirits produced in New York since Prohibition! Fantastic in itself, Tuthilltown Spirits' craft distillery (yep, another one – we love 'em!) charm certainly runs deeper than this single fact, with its very existence oweing much to fate and circumstance. Its success however is owed only to hard work and the high quality of what they have managed to create in the past few years.
When Ralph Erenzo bought Tuthilltown Gristmill and the 35 acres that surrounded it, distilling was far from the professional climber’s thoughts. Originally, he had dreamt of creating the perfect climber’s paradise: a ranch that would act as a base camp for those wishing to scale the cliffs at nearby Shawangunk Ridge.
Back at the end of May, just before all the busyness and rushing about, Ben and I attended a very special event, which I was no doubt supposed to write about back then. Drawing attention to the fact that I didn’t is probably a terrible decision, but the people must still know, damn it!
The time has come for you to learn all about this: Glenfarclas & Hine 1953 – Auld Alliance.
Hot on the heels of Talisker Storm comes another no age statement whisky from the very same distillery: Talisker Port Ruighe.
So, what’s the story with Port Ruighe? Wouldn’t you like to know? Well, it’s pronounced Portree, as in the largest town on the Isle of Skye, with ‘Port Ruighe’ being an old Gaelic spelling. The town is based around a large natural harbour, which has been key for business and trade for centuries and latterly has featured some of them there brightly coloured buildings made infamous by a certain children’s television programme. The other thing you need to know is that they have their own top flight (see what I did there) Quidditch team, the Prides, that compete in the British and Irish Quidditch League.
The London Distillery Company, founded in 2011, that’s 2011, have recently released their first full product, created at their rather nifty Battersea distillery. Their plan, ultimately, is to produce whisky in London for the first time in over a century, but in the meantime we have an exciting new gin brand: Dodd’s Gin.
TLDC’s Darren Rook has often pointed to London’s whisky distilling heritage, with as many as six distilleries operating back in the 1800s. Other cities, such as Liverpool, can make similar claims, and whilst English whisky may still be an unusual concept for some, the revival is already well underway. Indeed, we could soon have 5 English whisky distilleries. London’s gin heritage meanwhile, is “too well known to require a dissertation”, to steal a Ralph Dodd (the chap this gin's named after) phrase.