The RMS Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton on the 10th of April 1912. On the 15th of April 1012, she hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean and sunk. Of the 2,224 passengers and crew, only 710 survived. It remains one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
During a recent visit to Berry Bros & Rudd we (carefully) flicked through an old ledger, covering transactions from March 1912, and saw the entries for orders to be delivered by the Titanic – 2 cases of original yellow Chartreuse, 2 of very fine sherry, 1 of Manzanilla sherry, 18 of dry champagne, 3 of “dry dry” gin and 3 of 10 year old Scotch whisky were loaded as cargo, for delivery to a variety of US-based customers.
On the wall in the Berry Bros & Rudd shop is the insurance advisement letter from White Star Line. It reads, “Referring to your shipment by this steamer, it is with great regret we have to inform you that the Titanic foundered at 2-20 a.m. 15th instant, after colliding with an iceberg, and is a total loss. Details of shipment are shown at foot, Yours faithfully, for White Star Line”.
To commemorate the centennial of the disaster, Berry Bros & Rudd decided to create a limited edition Scotch whisky. Called Titanic, their commemorative bottling was distilled in 1998, aged in Oloroso sherry casks and bottled this year.
With scant information about the style of the whisky they had delivered to the ship, they decided to honour the “plucky little countess” Lady Rothes, with a Glenrothes, Speyside whisky. (BBR own the Glenrothes whisky brand, though not the distillery itself).
BBR’s Spirits Manager, Douglas McIvor, took us through a tasting of the whisky, sharing his own tasting notes and encouraging us to add our own. He selected this particular whisky because was reminiscent of the Edwardian style popular at that time, although no samples or specific notes on the BBR whisky sent onto Titanic survive.
It’s not often I get to compare tasting notes with an expert, so I was eager to ‘calibrate’ my whisky tastebuds. It has a rich, sweet nose with the fruit of the sherry coming through and bringing a touch of the oak with it – I also get a hint of warm, ripe oranges. At 46% the alcohol slightly overwhelms the more subtle flavours – with a splash of water the sherry is cut back and reveals more vanilla fudge.
Douglas’ own tasting notes are pleasingly well aligned with mine – vanilla, deep citrus, dried fruits, figs, coffee and spice. On having another sniff I get the coffee, although it’s hard to know how much of that is down to the power of suggestion.
It’s smooth and honey-like in the mouth, mild fruit tones leading though to quite a tannic hit. The finish is long and drawn out, the sweetness fading and leaving you with a noticeable rawness. Watered, it’s positively creamy and there’s that vanilla again; the alcohol is less aggressive but you still have that wonderful lingering finish – perhaps a little sweeter.
Back to Douglas’ notes, he also highlights the deep fruity notes and honeyed texture, although he’s on his own with talk of brazil nuts and liquorice!
A little overwhelming raw, a splash of water makes this a wonderfully complex, rewarding dram – sadly I won’t be getting an entire bottle to keep in my cupboard, but I’ll certainly look forward to exploring what else the Glenrothes distillery has to offer.
This is a single cask bottling and there were only 100 bottles – snapped up almost instantly at the very reasonable price of £100.
Visit Kavey Eats to read more about the sinking of the Titanic, including how it happened and some of the human stories of passengers lost and saved, including Lady Rothes, the plucky little countess.
Pete Drinks and Kavey Eats attending the tasting as guests of Berry Bros & Rudd.