Berry Bros. & Rudd London Dry Gin


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Berry Bros. & Rudd, London Dry Gin

Berry Bros. & Rudd, London Dry Gin

This month sees the re-launch of the once much-loved, Berry Bros. & Rudd London Dry Gin. We talk to distiller, Charles Maxwell, about bringing the original recipe back to life

The Berry Bros. & Rudd London Dry Gin first featured on the company price list in 1909. Known fondly as ‘Berrys’ Best”, it was also included in “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David Embury in 1948 as an example of “superior British gin production”. Sold both here and in the US, in small amounts to special customers, other purveyors of the brand back then included Hollywood director, Frank Capra. Since its original inception and due to its subsequent popularity, today only one bottle remains – one that dates back to 1950. Distiller Charles Maxwell has recreated the original flavour, from a tiny vial of liquid supplied to him from this original bottle.

“Gin ages very slowly. You could put two gins, twenty years apart, next to each other, and one could be its brother,” he says when we discuss the challenges that this particular task has posed. Charles made his 130th gin recipe last year and currently has another 12 or so new gins under development. We are in the boardroom of his south-west London distillery – a modest place, with bright, wide windows that overlook sun-drenched, residential property in Clapham. The room is bedecked with bottles, clear ones distorting the view in a myriad of sizes, giant 15 litre Bordeaux-shaped Nebuchadnezzars taking up space on the floor, and others both more generic, and highly stylised, dusting the top of the cabinets to our side.

Charles, has had his own gin distilling business here for over twenty years. For a spirit often dubbed “Mother’s ruin” it is ironic to note that it was through his mother that Charles first became interested in this field. His own “spirited” career started at the Finsbury Distillery Company, a company that has been in his mother’s family since the 19th Century. Her family were also owners of Stone’s Ginger Wine, originally based in Wandsworth.

To recreate the flavours of Berry Bros. & Rudd London Dry Gin, Charles’ team did various test distillations, adding in different botanicals to try to match the original flavours. The resultant liquid is batch-distilled, through Charles’ two stainless steel stills – “Tom Thumb” and “Thumbelina”, made by John Door, an old London still maker. Charles says that stainless steel (rather than copper) “provides a system that is more gentle in extracting the oils out of the botanicals.” Charles mainly buys his botanicals from France – nodding to a whole apothecary listed on the whiteboard here by the stills, from the quintessential and very necessary juniper, to more exotic and unusual flavours such as liquorice root, hawthorne, angelica seed, red clover, kaffir, wormwood, fenugreek, raspberry leaves, bogmyrtle and tonka. Gold-leaf too perhaps? The list is almost never-ending. The new Berry Bros. & Rudd London Dry Gin, one he dubs “a very-good, classic London-made gin” has four distinct flavours – juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root and winter savory, which is a semi-evergreen herb, native to the Mediterranean and Africa. Juniper, Charles says, is a heavy press oil, coriander seed gives citrus and spicy notes, angelica root a herbally, almost mossy characteristic, and the savory – a herbal, peppery and chaff characteristic, “one of our favourite botanicals.”

Charles dresses the part of “gin connoisseur”, in a double-breasted blue blazer with sheep adorning his almost-hidden tie. His credentials are some of the best in the business – something he clearly hasn’t tired of over the years. “To be working [in gin] in this day and age, I feel incredibly lucky and privileged. It was never meant to be a drink to sniff and spit too much. It is a drink to be enjoyed.” But gin and distillation is not his only raison d’être. In among the bottles are model cars – a Firebird CN7 acts as an oversized paper weight, motoring magazines adorn the coffee table, and huge racing-motif canvases sit primed to drive on the walls. Both he and co-partner Andre Chapman have a demonstrable interest in four wheels. “I used to race Formula Ford in the late 1960s, my mother was not keen, and then when I met my wife I thought ‘I don’t think I’m the next Jackie Stewart.’” Charles instead now tours with The Worshipful Company of Distiller’s livery company – recently driving around Scottish Whisky country. Of his collection, he gives particular mention to a 1933 Rowton – an American engine with a British body, his favourite, and the oldest he has in his collection. An oldie, but a goodie. Much like Berry Bros. & Rudd London Dry Gin.

Category: Spirits

Notes from the vineyard: blending


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Blending Nyetimber's 2017 base wines

Blending Nyetimber’s 2017 base wines

At this time of year, the main focus in the winery at Nyetimber is on blending and preparing the 2017 harvest wines for bottling. Winemaker Brad Greatrix talks us through the process

Blending is a fascinating and exciting process, one where the wines literally come to life. It’s cliché to talk about this as creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts, but I believe the expression fully applies when it comes to putting base wines together for sparkling. Particularly when working with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, each variety complements the others, and there is a synergy that makes it clear why they are such a successful trio of grapes for top quality sparkling wines.

Regarding the blending process, from the base wine tastings that we carry out in January, Cherie Spriggs and I assemble trial versions of our various wines (Classic Cuvée, Rosé, Blanc de Blancs et al). These are small versions of the blends – approximately 500 millilitres each and therefore on occasion only a few millilitres are coming from one tank. Our first attempt at the blends is an educated guess based on experience with our vineyard blocks, as well as the style and quality of the individual base wines as revealed in the January tastings. After assessing the first trial blends, we then make refinements according to what the wines need, and our ‘catalogue’ of base wines available. For example, if we want to work on the acidity profile, or the fruit presence of a blend, we can look back at the wines available and the components of the blends to adjust proportions accordingly, or substitute their individual parts. It is these moments that make the hard work, investment and dedication towards keeping our vineyard parcels separate throughout harvest and fermentation, worthwhile.

Black glasses, used for blind tasting during the blending process

Black glasses, used for blind tasting during the blending process

An extra layer of interest also exists when blending our multi-vintage wines (Classic Cuvée, Rosé and Demi-Sec). For these wines we draw upon our collection of reserve wines to add depth to the blend. Using ‘CC’ as an example, reserves can comprise up to a third of the blend. The reserve wines in our collection represent 3-5 of the most recent vintages. Our approach with using reserves is that they should bring complexity but not dominance to a wine – hence not pushing the ageing of our reserves too far. And of course, each year during the blending process we have to allocate some base wines to become reserves for future years. To be considered for allocation as a reserve wine, the base wines need to be balanced, and with great ageing potential, because after a few years in tank, they of course need to age a further few years in bottle before release.

Once Cherie and I approach what seems to be the final versions of the blends we make one final check of the wines by tasting them in black glasses. If you’ve not tried this sort of tasting, I highly recommend it. Black glasses can be used for ‘blind’ tastings, where it’s impossible to distinguish the colour of the wine one is tasting. We use this as a way to confirm that each of the blends is stylistically distinct, without the help of visual cues. For example, can we identify the Rosé by aroma and taste alone, without seeing the colour? Is the Blanc de Blancs recognisable and can we spot the distinctive and alluring floral and berry aromas of the Tillington vineyard? The result of working this way is that our wines end up with distinct styles.

Next month will be the final entry in my “Notes from the vineyard” series, where I’ll be discussing the preparation for bottling of these 2017 wines. From then, it won’t be long until budburst is upon us, and the 2018 growing season is underway…  And so the cycle repeats.

Category: Champagne and Sparkling Wine,English Wine,Miscellaneous

How to choose wine in a restaurant


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Exploring and tasting wine: how to choose wine in a restaurant

Restaurant wine lists, explained

Our in-house Wine School book ‘Exploring & Tasting Wine’ looks at a number of real-life wine topics. Today we look at choosing wine in a restaurant

When you look at a restaurant wine list, it will help you to choose wines if you almost conduct a ‘virtual tasting’ of the wines in your imagination! Consider the following:

  • The grape variety/ies of the wine. This will affect the style of the wine – aromas, flavours, acidity, body.
  • The origin of the wine. Is it from a cool or hot climate? This will affect the style of the wine, in terms of acidity, alcohol, body and ripeness of flavours.
  • Which wine you might enjoy with each course. With smoked salmon, for instance, a high acidity, zesty Sauvignon Blanc will cut through the richness of the fish; alternatively the smoothness of a Chardonnay can be an equally good match because it complements the richness (and the hint of oak matches the smoked flavour). It’s very personal; you must find what you enjoy.

Ask the sommelier. If the restaurant you’re in has a good sommelier, do take advantage of him or her – wine professionals do as well. Now that you know how to describe wines, ask questions that will help guide you to the style you enjoy – for example ‘how oaked is your Chardonnay from Carneros?’

Explore our range of Wine School courses here. Or order your own copy of the book for more every-day wine topics.

Category: Food & Wine,Wine School

A cocktail for Valentine’s Day


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Love Potion, No.3, a cocktail for St. Valentine's Day

Love Potion, No.3

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we ask our in-house mixologists to create a cocktail in-keeping with the spirit of romance, and, in a nod to the senses – explore how such aroma and flavour “potions” have evolved over time

Perhaps one of the least discussed consequences of the digital age is its democratisation of the Occult. It used to be that you had to shuffle your way up narrow Camden staircases, rub crystal balls or – perish the thought – hang out in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library in order to gain exposure to the dark arts. Nowadays, the prospective practitioner need only Google the words “love potion” to open a figurative (and sometimes literal) bag of worms containing lists of ingredients whose size and esotericism would make Ottolenghi blush. While I wouldn’t be the first to use these pages to profess a slightly Luddite-ish view of the world; witches and wizards used to be genuinely sinister, hairy figures. Now, all you need is a cauldron from Homebase and some black nail varnish and suddenly you’re Voldemort’s uncle…

Anyway, I digress, the truth is that people have always been obsessed with concocting potions that will arouse particular feelings in those that consume them. In Babylonian times, it was thought that beheading a live partridge and swallowing its (still-beating) heart was a sure-fire route to increased passion. While the Roman Empress Livia allegedly used Spanish Fly – the secretion of the male blister beetle – to spike family members, causing them to commit sexual indiscretions which could later be used for blackmail.

Fans of The Clovers’ great doo-wop hit Love Potion No.9, in which a despairing narrator describes his descent into love-induced madness after consuming a liquid which “smells like turpentine” and “looks like India ink,” will be disappointed to learn that most of the internet’s modern-day potions are made with things like rose petal and coriander seed. There is perhaps something reassuring in a liquid’s potency being directly linked to its noxiousness, however, the link between smell, taste and a dispensation for amour is scientifically proven and, indeed, those who suffer from anosmia (“smell blindness”) typically have reduced sensual predilections overall.

Luckily, partridge hearts and beetle secretion have been replaced as natural aphrodisiacs with chocolate and oysters but, the point is, recipes for increasing one’s “propensity for romance” are as old as that Barry White cassette you keep tucked away at home, just in case. All this in mind and to coincide with a rainy Wednesday in mid-February, we decided to concoct a little cockle-warming love potion of our own. It must be stressed, Love Potion No.3 will not make someone fall in love with you but, it does possess superior synesthetic properties. Modern-day love potions should never be administered to others but, rather, sipped by their maker. I imagine you knew that already.

Love Potion No.3 (serves two)

Muddle the blackberries in to the sugar syrup. Add a block of ice before pouring in the gin and 50ml of the blood orange juice. Top the glass with crushed ice. Finish with the remaining 25ml of blood orange juice. Garnish with a blackberry pinned with a lemon twist.

For more spirited gift ideas, browse our extended range here.

To learn how to better interpret the aroma and taste of wine, try out one of our Wine School courses.

Category: Miscellaneous,Spirits