A care package from London arrived for me mid-February. Inside were two sample bottles of Bimber and a Daftmill. As soon as I saw the Bimber samples I mentally shouted BIIIMBEEEEERRRR similar to how lumberjacks stereotypically shout timber. I was very happy. I thought to myself I shall finally get to try a whisky that a few of my fellow Malt writers have been raving about since last year. Thankfully, Adam already geeked out on Bimber with this informative article.
A lot of new distilleries and brands coming out today are a result of the spirits boom. After sourcing spirits became more difficult, people started making their own. Of course, a distillery which is a business opens to make money. But how passionate and/or knowledgeable, or fast, and how much they make are often the variants between new distilleries. Those in it for the money and not the passion, for me, fall into the 90% of Sturgeon’s law. While those in it for the intrinsic value and passion fall into the other 10%.
Most of you will be sick of this viewpoint by now but I have to say it. The misconception that casks and aging are magic bullets for making any spirit better is utter nonsense. Yes, casks and aging can improve a spirit but they can only do so much.
Many less discerning, or less educated consumers, can be tricked into focusing on a product’s more glamorous aspects like premium packaging or eye-catching terms. Just like a whisky aged in tired ex-bourbon, finished in seasoned ex-sherry casks, realistically cannot be expected to be good, one cannot and must not expect a soup, or a stew, to be good just because truffles or foie gras were put in there as the finishing touch.
If one wants to produce an intrinsically great product, the time and effort must be put into every process. The Wire is considered the greatest tv show ever because every season was great. All the parts made sense and had continuity. The producers didn’t just invest in one or two very memorable seasons. A great soup or stew starts with great stock. Great stock starts with patience and great ingredients. Great stock cannot be rushed. It has to be cooked in low heat for hours. Putting the heat in high blast for the sake of making it will not bring out the full potential of the flavors. This sounds like the fermentation of most distilleries today, no?
Single farm grain seems like a commitment to quality. Sure, other farms may also grow the same kind of barley. But are their quality really the same? A lot of us tend to forget that farming isn’t simply just planting, watering and waiting. Tending to the soil during and after harvest also plays its part. Also, it means Bimber isn’t just going to look for the cheapest source of barley for the sake of corporate efficiency.
Seven days fermentation?* This is the first time I’ve heard of a barley mash being fermented that long. This surely doesn’t sound like the yeasts chosen by big brands for quick fermentation yielding a mash with higher abv to yield more distillate. Long fermentation time immediately screams care and love to me. Because longer fermentation means more esters and that means more flavor.
I was also happy to read, that they’re using direct fire Portuguese alembic stills. Alembic stills always make me think of the pot stills used by Cognac distillers. Pot stills are really the stills to have if the distiller wants to leave his imprint on the distillate. It also just retains more flavor.
I love direct flame stills. If you’re a fan of Springbank, I hear they still distill via direct flame via some sort of flamethrower contraption. There is no direct study or proof that direct flame distillation makes a better spirit. But I once heard Cognac distilleries were asked by the French government to distill using steam. They said the distillate was shite and immediately switched back to direct fire stills. If it ain’t broke it doesn’t need fixing right? The Maillard Reaction could also be an explanation.
I’m not going to cover the First Release anymore as other Malt writers already covered it here.
I’d like to thank Shiv Joshi @ssj99 from the London Whisky Club (LWC) for the generous samples and pictures. The LWC Inaugural 3-year-old release is from cask # 33 and was aged in a virgin American white oak cask. It was filled with new make batch # 9. The batches were distilled from July 11, 2016, to July 15 2016. Then the cask was filled on July 17 2016. The whisky was bottled on Dec 2 2019. Interesting, as they let the new make rest for 2 days before aging it. I’m curious what the effects on the distillate will be. The LWC was able to acquire 51 bottles available only for members.
Bimber The First – review
On the nose: Surprisingly mellow for the abv and being a 3 year old. There’s still the burn but I’ve had older whisky with the same abv that burns more. I get dry scents of dark cacao, hints of anise, red gummy candy, cherry juice concentrate, classic PX sherry raisins and cough syrup character and coffee. NO SULFUR.
In the mouth: This does not have the burn of a 54.2% abv spirit. Different shades of cherry-like cherry chocolate, cherry flavored gummy/jelly and cherry juice concentrate. Raisins, honey, dates, figs, chocolate raisins and coffee.
Can all modern ex-sherry wood influenced spirits be like this? I love that there aren’t any sulfur notes in here. How is a new and small distilleries’ wood management program so much more appealing than the multinational companies’ programs? I very much appreciate that the cask influence isn’t overpowering. The five casks chosen let the distillery DNA strut. My only complaint is the lack of texture and length in finish. I expected an oilier and richer texture for the abv.
Bimber “The London Whisky Club Inaugural” – review
On the nose: Initially, there was a very strong ethanol burn which just overpowers every other scent. But letting this breathe more really mellowed it down and let the fruity and floral notes shine more. I get hints of cacao, dates, honey then hints of pears and apples, vanilla, strawberries, caramel and barley husk.
In the mouth: An initial mix of coffee, vanilla, honey and asparagus. Barley husk, dates, fuji apples, hints of pears and hints of cacao. Some more hints of dates, honey, nuts and caramel. There’s a slight sweet vegetal note that reminds me of stir-fried leafy vegetables followed by leather and dusty wooden furniture.
This is very surprising a whisky. I was expecting more oak. Where’s the oak? This tastes more like a 2nd fill ex-bourbon single malt. I’ve had more bourbon-y single malt aged in 1st fill ex-bourbon casks. I expected this to be more like the Glenmorangie Ealanta which was more wood forward and sweet. But instead, this is balanced.
Are 3 years, too short a time for the whisky to soak in the cask influence? Or does Bimber’s long fermentation make the new distillate balance out with the cask influence?
Either way, this is an interestingly good whisky. The nose needs a lot of time to settle down and express itself more properly. It was just too feisty despite letting this breath in the glass for an hour. Letting this sit for an hour let out the more vegetal notes. It wasn’t there when I drank this 15 to 20 minutes after pouring in the glass.
Also, like the 1st release, this was lacking in the finish and texture. I was hoping for an oilier mouthfeel but it feels like it’s chill-filtered.
Thankfully, Bimber seems like it’s not in the game just to make whisky and ultimately money. They seem to really care about what they’re making. Sure, the First Release cost £120 and the Recharred costs £65. Based on the reviews, Bimber’s whisky is better than many older and more reputable brands in the market.
Thanks again to Shiv for the samples. I look forward to trying future releases from Bimber.
*Dornoch Distillery has done a 22-day fermentation and generally does 14 days.