Here are some brief snapshots of an on-location trip to Bimber distillery with the Sussex Whisky Appreciation Group.
While hoping to move to pastures greener – Richmond way – as part of an expansion programme, in the meantime, Bimber continue their operations in the North Acton area.
The walk to the distillery [from the North Acton tube station] is an experience you’re unlikely to find anywhere in Scotland. Walking away from Wormwood Scrubs and parallel to Acton Cemetary, a dumping ground for hardcore waste, singed carpets, and expensive wrecked cars only adds to the mystique and rough charm of this bespoke industrial artisan capital-based English distillery. The first thing I spot of the distillery itself was Bimber’s draff container, a skip-filled delight for the local pigeons.
We are greeted and warmly welcomed to the Bimber distillery by Bimber Brand Ambassador, Luke Juranek.
From direct-fed pigeon skips to direct-fired stills, Bimber are making whisky following some tried & tested traditional methods.
Onto the grain, their Warminster-sourced Concerto barley is more crushed than milled. In fact, Bimber have a dedicated floor and milling operation set up to their own personal specifications at the maltings plant. This crushed recipe makes for an ideal [clear] mash for Bimber’s needs and also serves as an ideal breakfast-like snack too.
Producing just a barrel a day of spirit, their production methods come with an affirmative eco-friendly focus.
Unlike most other UK distilleries, they only utilise two mashtun washes to achieve a high concentrated water which ends up in any number of seven 3000 litre open-top white American oak washbacks with wall-side cooling plates to regulate temperature fluctuations [see picture, right]. Fermentation takes 6-7 days.
We get to try the wash.
Bimber wash  Un-Ob. 8-10%
- C: Creamy fizzy Lemsip-esque lemony > apple sour beer. It’s the sour note that remains a key component throughout the process, one that is retained the final character in many of Bimber’s releases.
Aside from a forklift, two 1000ltr stills sit centre-stage in the middle of the distillery. Unusually, the low wine comes out at approx 32% abv and is delicious. Bottle that already!
The stills chug along long & slow, taking up to 12 hours to produce spirit at around 80% abv, before being reduced to a standard 63.5% cask-fill strength.
Time to try the juice.
Bimber New Make  Ob. Batch 173 [144 bts] 63.5% WB0
- N,T,F: Raisiny, clean, soft yet firm with a slight coppery creamy barley sugar finish with more raisin fruitiness at the death. Being very barley faithful, it’s impossible not to detect Bimber’s ‘crushed’ grist mix, especially when surrounded by the smell of it on-location.
- C: Less ’neutral’ than I’ve remembered it in the past, which may reflect Bimber’s direction from short to medium-term maturation production?
Bimber Peated New Make  Ob. Batch 177 [198 bts] 63.5% WB88.50
- N: Sweet vegetal and,…. Ardbeggian!
- T: More Ardbeggian references follow. Little travel just yet.
- F: A notable finish has yet to develop also, but the nose and arrival are spot on.
- C: Fabulous spirit that’s never touched a barrel.
Scores 80 points
- C: Starting edgy and impactful, specifically with pineapples [Wayne] on nose and palate, it becomes more & more honeyed with time whilst a desirable sweet < sour character clearly shows. Excellent work in progress.
Scores 82 points
- C: More rounded perhaps than the re-charred batch, though both young malts change and evolve swiftly and the re-charred expression over-takes this soon enough. At first, I find this fruity apple-y beer slightly sweeter, so less sour [in comparison to the re-charred], and with a vegetal soup vibe which is to my liking. Bourbon-y by the end.
Scores 79 points
Bimber 2016/2020 3yo Ob. Oloroso Cask Batch 02/2020 [920 bts] 51.7% WB88.25
This is a bottle I bought through the Bimber Klub, a bottle I haven’t gotten round to opening yet, so it’s handy and apt to be trying it at the distillery.
- N: Coppery vegetal,….. My notes have soon become scant.
- T: Aromatic curry flavours with a coppery fruity vegetal base.
- F: Short, sherry-led, but the cask influence is well considered.
- C: A candidly young Bimber base with a separate oloroso layer sitting on top. Swings & roundabouts compared to the straight ex-bourbon cask release.
Scores 79 points
Bimber Ardmore Quarter Cask  Un.Ob cask sample #9 abv unknown
Did I hear rightly that this was originally a Laphroaig Quarter cask before moving up to Ardmore [dated 2015], and then finally to Bimber? Both Laphroaig & Ardmore are Beam Suntory-owned, so that would make sense.
- N: Lots of peat, varied smokes, vegetal, sweet, sour, soft huskiness,…
- T: Being very spirity, it smells and tastes of the component steps of the/a distillery. Slightly meaty all-sorts ensue.
- F&C: Falls, again, at the finish, but for a young peated cask-finished cask sampled whisky, it’s all smiles from this point on.
Scores 80 points
Bimber  Un-Ob. Ex-bourbon 57.9%
Using the same cask as a previous release, this, as-yet un-released distillery-only ‘Bimber-refill cask’ offering was almost ready when we visited. Next month it’ll be available.
- N: Rich and punchy.
- T: Peppery, intense and hard to read in the circumstances.
- F: Clean formidable spirit with a savoury-dry barley sugar conclusion.
- C: Super spirit, the now more subdued reused cask allowing the spirit to ring out.
Scores 80 points
Bimber 2016/2020 [+/-4yo] Ob. Single Sherry Cask #136 [62 bts] 58.1% WB85
Wayne thoughtfully drams out this fully sherry-matured Bimber for S.W.A.G. members. Those present get a preview.
- N: Plenty here, and in keeping with the new make, the soft cereals mix with > resinous < coffee caramel. Sweet yet tempered, there’s an illusion of a high-ester rum about it – Vale Royal styley.
- T: More of that caramel from the nose but with a sour touch, in keeping again with Bimber’s aforementioned beer. With water: less body, sweeter with barley sugar coffee < caramel.
- F: Fizzy, sweet, vegetal, and sour. And of vanilla? It was not mentioned once during the entire flight.
- C: Right up there with the best Bimber I’ve had so far.
[Provisionally scores 85 points]
With thanks to S.W.A.G., Luke, Bimber & the team