Bimber Distillery Only: Virgin, Sherry & Peated Finish
I’ve written about Bimber previously, a wonderfully interesting craft distillery in London. Their first two expressions really left an impression. And wouldn’t you know it, they just sent me three samples of their latest releases.
All of these were single casks and exclusively available at the distillery and were supposed to last a few weeks at least, but sold out in a few hours. I guess that’s the difference between distilling in a remote location in Scotland or setting up in a metropolitan like London. So, sorry to say you won’t be able to get your hands on any of these anymore, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth writing about.
First up is the Bimber Virgin Cask with an outturn of 70 bottles, followed by the Bimber Sherry Cask that spewed out 65 bottles. Finally a Bimber finished in an ex-Islay quarter cask after initial maturation in an ex-bourbon cask.
Nose: Quite syrupy with an obvious virgin oak influence, and yet the oak is not too overpowering — a delicate balance. There’s some soft orchard fruits here, as well as a touch of breakfast cereals and crème brûlée.
Taste: Okay, the virgin oak is a little too intense to my liking, a bit too heavy on the oak shavings. Some cracked black peppercorns, cloves and a touch of coconut, as well as a hint of pine needles and juniper.
Finish: Lingering oakiness and spices.
Nose: Very rich, thick sherry influence with mushrooms, chocolate and an abundance of dark, syrupy fruitiness — mainly cherries, some strawberries. Not too dry, which is sometimes the case with these heavily sherry-influenced whiskies. Finally a touch of toasted oak and tobacco leaves.
Taste: Oily stuff. Modern sherried whisky with a pronounced but agreeable spiciness. A touch of almond paste, rum-soaked raisins and poached pears, but also milk chocolate. A whiff of burnt caramel.
Finish: A bit tannic but mostly more of the above.
Nose: Delicate notes of nougat and fudge with a thin veneer of smoke and wooden cigar boxes. Finally a touch of nectarine. Very agreeable.
Taste: Oily at first, then the Islay quarter cask kicks in. Ashy, menthol and slightly medicinal, even some cough syrup. There’s a tinge of tropical fruitiness (presumably from the Bimber spirit) that works really well with the peated cask.
Finish: No more peat or smoke, just bright fruits.
The Bimber Peated Finish was a great surprise. It did feel a bit engineered and was certainly challenging to wrap my head around. First impression was fine, but as soon as the fruitiness appeared the spirit integrated well with the Islay cask and the separate parts become whole.
The Bimber Sherry Cask is a fine whisky, albeit rather cask-forward. I assume this particular cask will be used again, and I for one would like to try Bimber spirit matured in a less active, refill sherry cask. I imagine it can be quite the treat.
I’m not shocked that the Bimber Virgin Oak made the least impression. It’s hard to work with new wood and I feel it often doesn’t quite work. I had a taste of a similar virgin oak matured Bimber at the Whiskybase Gathering, and wasn’t too impressed then either.
Overall this was a great exercise and a fantastic opportunity to familiarize myself with more with Bimber. The spirit shows great promise, even at a very young age. However, I can’t help but feel that the Sherry Cask and Virgin Cask are already at their peak, in large part because of the maturation in octave casks. I can’t wait to try Bimber in future years, hopefully from some regular size bourbon casks!
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.