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Edward Bates - Whisky Perspective

Updated: Jun 14

For this edition in The Whisky Ardvark's whisky perspective series, we had the pleasure of inviting industry legend Edward Bates to share the five drams that changed his perspective on whisky.

Edward Bates, the director of Distilled London (UK) Ltd, is also the co-founder of Byrne Vini SA and a B.N.I.C. and B.N.I.A. educator. His extensive resume includes working as a wine and spirits educator and consultant, a spirits writer, and a freelance brand ambassador for companies such as Number One Drinks, Speciality Brands and Diageo. From 2001 to 2010, he served as a spirits buyer for Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR).


Five Whiskies That Changed My Perspective

by Edward Bates

Edward Bates The Whisky Ardvark Whisky Perspective

I don’t think I have found many articles harder to write than this one. My career in the drinks trade has spanned five decades, which is scary. Over this time, I have lost count of the number of whiskies I have tried, so picking just five is tough, really tough.

Inevitably, many great distilleries and producers are missing from this list, including Islay whiskies, Brora, Talisker, Clynelish, Hanyu, Kiruzawa and Springbank. Needless to say, if you asked me tomorrow, I’m sure I’d come up with a new and completely different list.

To come up with such a truncated selection, I have decided to highlight whiskies that have been pivotal in my career and marked milestones in my spiritual journey. Here we go.

Berry Bros & Rudd - Strathavon (Glenlivet) 1970 / Bot.1999

Tasted on a ski lift in France, courtesy of my brother, before joining BBR as an employee. I had previously not tasted anything as incredibly delicate, elegant and complex. It made me rethink just how good whisky could be and that working in an environment with products as great as this might be fun.

Berry Bros & Rudd - Glenlivet 1971 / Bot. 2003

I tried this at my first Whisky Live at The Royal Horticultural Halls in 2003. Another landmark was that I could compare an independently bottled single-cask expression with the then newly released 30-year-old distillery release. Other than the fact that I preferred the BBR release, the fundamental differences between the two whiskies made a personal impact.

Blue Hanger 1st release

I helped my mentor and colleague Doug McIvor blend this in 2003. It was a huge lesson for me in two main ways, one of which was the skills of a blender. Doug is great at it and taught me how a blend can be so much better than the sum of its parts.

The first release of Blue Hanger was made up of 3 casks. Two butts of Glen Grant and one of Glenlivet, but none of the whiskies were good enough to work as a single cask release. They each had ‘holes’ in the palate, which were really glaring, and had no chance of meeting Doug’s quality threshold. However, those ‘holes’ had disappeared once blended, creating a big, rich, old-school sherry bomb.

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu The First

Fast forward, after leaving BBR to strike out on my own, I joined The Whisky Exchange as a part-timer, mainly to keep my hand in, and so I could see sales trends first-hand.

Sukhinder Singh had recently started hosting The Whisky Show, and in 2011, the event was being held in the arched warren of Vinopolis.

Ichiro’s importer at the time, Number One Drinks, asked me if I could help out on a stand pouring a new three-year-old Japanese whisky from a new distillery, Chichibu. The whisky would be selling for around £80.

I could not believe anyone in their right mind would pay that sort of money for a three-year-old whisky. Then I tried it. As life-changing moments go, this was truly monumental. I was stunned and awe-struck in equal measure. I could not understand how whisky could be this good this young. This guy, Ichiro Akuto, is really good at what he does, and I have had the pleasure of representing him and his whiskies at every London Whisky Show since then.

Four Roses Limited Release

Stuart Ekins called to ask if I would like to go for breakfast with Jim Rutledge from Four Roses. This is not the sort of invitation I get every day, but it was one that I gladly accepted.

Jim was, and is, the epitome of a Southern gentleman. Softly and quietly spoken, oozing with passion for the whiskey he made at Four Roses, he explained how he blended and identified flavours by location within the distillery complex - how and why the flavours changed with location within the distillery and the individual warehouses.

That morning, Jim guided us through the full Four Roses range, and when we got to the Limited Release, my perception of just how good a good Bourbon can be was changed forever.

Edward Bates Whisky perspective five whiskies that changed my perspective

Thank you for reading The Whisky Ardvark. Be sure to check out some of our other articles below and return for more editions in our whisky perspective series.


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