Bimber Re-Charred Oak Casks (2019)
By now there’s a good chance you’ve heard about Bimber, probably in large part because their first release was very well received. The first time I really noticed them was just over a year ago — and the first impression was not a good one.
Now mind you, my first impression wasn’t based on the quality of their liquid. When I attended The Whisky Show in London in 2018, Bimber was one of the exhibitors. I admittedly hadn’t really read up on them at the time, otherwise I might’ve been a little less quick to judge, but as soon as I heard their two-year-old spirit would set me back 120 pounds, I had heard enough.
At lot has happened since then at Bimber, but most importantly they settled on a new pricing strategy. Their most recent release (and second release ever), Bimber’s Re-Charred Oak Casks, will cost you 65 pounds. That’s still not cheap but at least a lot better to swallow.
Especially when you consider Bimber’s ethos. The attention to detail is incredible. For a full account I’m going to refer to the great resource that is Malt, and the wonderful writer Adam Wells, whose write-up of a distillery visit to Bimber is a must-read. But I’ll try to summarize it in a few bullet points:
- Bimber crushes their grain instead of milling it to preserve the husks, because they don’t want them to interfere with the character of their wort
- The grain comes from a single farm, after a couple of dozen have been rejected
- They floor malt their barley
- Fermentation — in purpose built washbacks — takes seven days. That’s 148 hours, three times longer than most distilleries.
- They use two in-house yeast strains.
There’s a lot more, but for that you’ll have to read the Malt piece. After all, they’re mainly responsible for me turning my attention to Bimber again and giving them a second chance. Mark (Newton) and Adam have been raving about Bimber, and I trust Mark’s judgement, and since he trusts Adam’s judgement, I trust it as well.
I had the chance to talk to Farid Shawish, Bimber’s sales director, at the Whiskybase Gathering a few weeks ago, something I completely forgot to mention in my piece about the festival. It was a very informative and informal talk, and I could feel he was extremely open to feedback each time he poured me and my friend something new. A few samples from smaller casks were too oak-y for my liking, but overall I walked away impressed.
Just a few days after (I’m not sure if it was a coincidence), I was contacted by Matt McKay of The Dramble (another website you should frequent). Turns out he has been doing some work for Bimber and he offered to send me a sample of their upcoming release. I say upcoming, but as of today the Bimber Re-Charred Oak Casks is actually available on their website.
The casks for this whisky were hand-charred by Bimber’s own coopers to a level #4 char, also known as Alligator char. This deep charring caramelizes the wood sugars and adds a layer of filtering carbon to the surface of the barrel. Needless to say it has a distinct effect on the maturing spirit.
Bimber Re-Charred Oak Casks (51.9%, OB, 5,000 bts.)
Nose: An initial sweet, tinned pineapple note with vanilla custard, candy hearts and a whisper of mocha tart and cinnamon. It has a buttery quality to it, but also nice notes of red apples and pear skin.
Taste: The palate’s signature is much more oak-y than the nose suggests, which does a good job at ‘hiding’ the high char level, although it never completely goes over the edge. Love the oiliness of the spirit. The pineapple makes an encore and is accompanied by fudge, caramel and even a hint of lime juice, but there’s also lots of cloves and a touch of pepper and ginger, skewing the balance somewhat.
Finish: Lingering spices with a hint of thyme and mint, somewhat cough syrup-y. Pretty dry.
A proper second album from Bimber Distillery that’s not all about the cask — although the cask influence is high — but still leaves room for what seems to be a fruity and oily spirit. Approved!
Sample provided by Bimber Distillery
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.