The latest Monday Night Research Group at The Vaults marked a very special anniversary for me – one whole year living in Edinburgh. It seemed only right to celebrate with a dram, or in this case, five!
Alasdair Day, Co-Founder of R&B Distillers, hosted the tasting with Society Ambassador Jim Coleman.
R&B stands for Raasay and Borders – two locations which will be home to new distilleries in the not so distant future. You might be wondering, if R&B distillers hasn’t yet built a distillery what was on offer at the tasting? Well, R&B has three whiskies in its current range – Raasay While We Wait and Borders (both of which reflect the style of whisky that will be made when the distilleries are up and running) and The Tweeddale Blend. Alasdair talked us through each one and explained their origins.
We began with The Tweeddale Blend Batch 5– a 14 year old blended whisky (the grain in this blend is 20 years old in this Batch 5) is close to Alasdair’s heart. While one of Alasdair’s great-grandfather’s, Allan Macdonald, hailed from the Hebrides, his other great-grandfather, Richard Day, was a whisky blender in the Border town of Coldstream with a heritage dating back to 1820, when The Tweeddale Blend was first produced.
Having inherited the blending ‘recipe’, Alasdair has been recreating his great-grandfather’s Borders whisky since 2009 under The Tweeddale brand. It’s a blend of nine single casks – one grain, eight single malts – and blended 50% grain and 50% malt. On the nose there’s heaps of vanilla, subtle spice and a sharp citric edge. On the palate it’s incredibly malty with delicate spice. There’s also a very subtle hint of smoke.
Next up was a SMWS dram – 50.75: Comfort and emotional warmth. This 25 year old refill ex-bourbon barrel from the Sweet, fruity & mellow flavour profile followed on nicely from The Tweeddale. On the nose it was lovely and fruity – ripe peaches and strawberries combined with milk chocolate and a drizzle of honey. On the palate, a spicy warmth came through – cinnamon and ginger – with lots of sweet and fruity flavours.
The third whisky of the evening arrived just before our dinner interval. Borders is a non-chill filtered highland single grain Scotch whisky, finished in Oloroso Sherry casks and bottled at 51.7% abv. On the nose it’s incredibly sweet and reminiscent of toffee apples. However, the palate is entirely different – it’s nutty, spicy and quite dry. This one was a real highlight of the evening for me.
After our dinner, we moved on to the fourth whisky of the evening, which didn’t look much like whisky at first glance as it had a gorgeous pink hue to it. This was Raasay While We Wait – a non-chill filtered single malt Scotch whisky, bottled at 46% abv. It is the result of blending two expressions from one distillery; one peated, one unpeated.
Alasdair explained that the beautiful colour comes from the Tuscan red wine casks that it was finished in, and apparently, the stills that will eventually adorn the Isle of Raasay Distillery will come from Tuscany too. On the nose, there’s lots of red fruits – red cherries and sweet raspberries – complemented by a waxy sharpness and a little peat. On the palate, the red fruits linger but the spice and peat really shine through, and there’s a salty finish.
We finished the tasting with a Society dram – 3.257: Jacobite trip to the kitchen – a lovely whisky from the Peated flavour profile. On the nose it reminded me of lightly toasted buttered bread, sweet peach and lemon ice tea and the wonderful aromas of a herb garden in springtime, followed by delicate peat smoke. The palate evoked lavender, heather and beach bonfires.
As we sipped our final whisky, enthusiastic chatter broke out among attendees as they discussed the whiskies they had just tasted. As I watched those around me, I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect way to mark a year spent soaking up the delights and memories that whisky brings to people.
Join us at our next Monday Night Research Group on Monday 9th May. We’ll be joined by Ian Logan from Chivas Brothers distilleries. Tickets available here.