Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky Centenary
30th September, 2023
Last time I promised a write-up of the Cutty Sark Centenary celebrations in London. The blend was created at Berry Bros. & Rudd, fine wine and spirit merchant, in London on March 23rd, 1923 in a spirit of adventure (no pun intended) and has been carefully crafted ever since via only a few owners, the current one being La Martiniquaise-Bardinet who also own Glen Moray and Glen Turner. Like Berry Bros. & Rudd, they are a family-owned company. Although BBR no longer own the brand, there is still collaboration and it seemed fitting that their historic premises in London were chosen to launch the first part of the celebration this last Tuesday.
A few dozen of us who are whisky scribes, bloggers or long-term distribution partners from Europe to Japan were invited to BBR to hear more about the brand and learn about the Cutty Sark Centenary Edition (pictured further down the page). We were treated to some very tasty canapes and even tastier cocktails created and prepared by the mixologists from Wet & Dry and using the standard Cutty Sark blend (above). I‘ll try to get the recipes for next time as they‘re very worth trying if you have the facilities to make them. One featured apple and clementine and one used grapefruit four ways. The other was an Old Fashioned but I’m sure you all know about those. Will also request photography as my phone camera isn’t the best. I was busy in London after these events with no decent wifi to download any more info or official pictures. One recipe is shown here but no measure detail was given.
Cutty Julep Centenary Cocktail
Cutty Sark Original
Mango tea infused
Once the liquids are assembled scoop in crushed ice to the top of the glass or mug and stir for some dilution. Garnish with the mint (releasing the oils a little) and the pineapple leaf.
The high point was the big reveal by Master Blender, Stephen Woodcock, who explained he was given a fairly loose brief to create this special bottling. He finally settled on a theme round the number 23 and had alighted on a parcel of a few casks noted in inventory as „Sherry to Port“ which had been in sherry casks for 18 years before being transferred to port wood for a further five. He tried the liquid and says it knocked his socks off but it wasn‘t a blend at this stage and needed a little more balance. He had access to some special casks of grain whisky and once all liquids were blended they went back into cask for 100 days to marry. He had trialled five different blends and his own favourite was also the one chosen in blind nosing/tasting by others in the company.
Stephen and recently retired Cutty Sark Brand Ambassador, Ronnie Cox, then uncovered the centenary bottling to show us and what a beauty it is, wrapped in a sail-like cocoon to echo its heritage in being named after the 18th century tea clipper, now permanently on display in London. Even better, a dram each was brought round for us to try. It really is an exquisite creation and as I wrote on the cards provided, it tantalises all five senses. I didn‘t hear it being poured but can well imagine the sound and the appearance, aromas, mouthfeel and taste were all well satisfied.
On first acquaintance, my initial observations were:
Appearance: Glowing amber with tawny and orange marmalade highlights.
Nose: Richly raisined; tea which has soaked dried fruit; baked demerara sugar, spices and caramel; coffee grounds. With water, more caramel and dried fruits; a wisp of sulphur; candied nuts.
Palate: Mouth-coating and luscious; spicy with rich, dried fruits (fruit cakes and Christmas pudding); chocolate raisins, sugared almonds; coffee and malt.
I didn‘t get as far as deciding on finish other than that it‘s long but hope to get another chance to try it soon. The company‘s own notes are:
Nose: Gentle aromas of lemon frosting ebb and flow with raisins and demerara sugar. Ripples of subtle spice and caramel are cut through by hazelnuts and a splash of oak and spice.
Palate: A mouth-coating storm of spice and sweetness. Gingerbread surges with polished oak, alongside waves of dark fruits, caramel and chocolate. Ever-present are sherried undercurrents of nuts, polished leather and tobacco.
Finish: Long and lingering, as autumn leaves, tannins and candied orange drift into soft spice and berries.
ABV: 52,2% , non chill filtered
Key markets are Spain, Portugal, Greece, Japan and the USA.
The evening part of the celebration was on board Cutty Sark itself which makes an impressive sight against the sky as it darkens. Following a boat trip down the Thames over 200 people were treated to a reception and banquet at the ship. La Martiniquaise had managed to gather key people for the brand to attend from even more countries than at lunchtime. Well, who would refuse such an invitation? We had the opportunity to tour round this famous vessel at our own speed, read and hear about its rich history. Part of the museum is built round the underside of the ship so the event space actually sits under the hull and you can look up at its gleaming copper, apparently used when in service to deter barnacles from attaching to the ship and slowing it down. It did have a reputation as the fastest clipper in existence in its heyday until steam power came along.
Iain Allan, normally based at Glen Moray, was Master of Ceremonies for the evening which also featured speeches from senior directors from La Martiniquaise and Berry Bros. plus an even more spectacular reveal of the Centenary Edition bottling by Stephen Woodcock. Only 1435 numbered bottles of this exquisite blend are available at a price of around Euro 1000/ £900 so you may find it hard to get hold of one but if you get a chance to try it anywhere I urge you to do so. It‘s yet another lesson to all malt snobs, who dismiss blended whisky, that blending is an art and a craft and the best are an utter delight, so much more than their individual parts. This is one of those.
Till next time, happy dramming. I can‘t believe we‘ll be into October already!