Justerini & Brooks is a wine and spirits merchant that has existed since 1749. Although probably best known for its blended whisky, it has been a supplier for the British monarchy since 1761 when it started with King George III. Indeed, its blended whisky is a relatively recent product and was launched in the mid-20th century. It rose to stardom in the 60s and 70s thank to extensive product placement in film and television. The blend consists of about 42 malt and grain whiskies, including those from Knockando, Auchroisk, and Glen Spey.
Overall, we’re looking at a slightly pale colour comparable to moelleux wine. It’s quite clear with fast and thin legs. Don’t expect many viscometric whirls when adding water, though. I imagine that it’s been chill-filtered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad whisky.
J&B Rare Nose
Notes: Pear Drop, Cereal, Almond, Vanilla
Its overall bouquet isn’t overly intense but it does prickle the nostrils. It has a generally peppery nosefeel. There’s isn’t much lucidity or complexity. Ultimately, its aromas are somewhat solvent and reminiscent of pear drops. There’s also cereal, almond, and a hint of vanilla.
J&B Rare’s Palate & Mouthfeel
Primary Taste: Sweet
Opening: Pear Compote, Brine, Walnut
Heart: Digestive Biscuit, Nutmeg, Milk Chocolate
Finish: Short [Butterscotch, Vanilla, Flint]
J&B features a sweet primary flavour while its mouthfeel is quite fiery. There’s more pear solvency in the opening but it’s closer to pear compote. There’s also some brine and a hint of fresh walnut.
The complexity is relatively simple but the texture is surprisingly velvety. Nevertheless, it’s quite young overall. Moving on to the heart, expect cereal digestive biscuit with a slight nutmeg spice as well as sweet milk chocolate.
The finish is short overall. It’s not particularly full in flavour but you may detect butterscotch, vanilla, and a smoky minerality, which I personally thought resembled flint.
How To Drink J&B Rare
We’re staunch believers that you should drink something the way you enjoy it. While Scotch whisky drinking is prone to many rules and dogma, we feel that it should all be discarded if it’s not how you like it. Nevertheless, if you need a few ideas for J&B Rare, we can happily provide some suggestions.
Firstly, it’s certainly drinkable neat with a Glencairn glass or similar. However, you may find it a little rough. In that case, add a bit of water until it’s smooth enough. Alternatively, chilling a drink with ice or in the fridge can take away its alcohol bloom.
Otherwise, J&B is ideal for a Whisky Sour or even a Scotch & Soda. You can also consider other cocktails such as a Rob Roy!
Milk chocolates will impart additional creaminess to J&B Rare, which can soften its rough edges. Meanwhile, fresh walnuts or even some smoked trout can offer extra complexity.
As for cigars, I would consider something equally affordable but quite pleasant. For instance, the Gilberto Oliva Reserva, which has an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper, is a great choice. Generally speaking, opt for something flavoursome with a medium-bodied profile.
Overall Experience & Value For Money
The J&B initials are so recognisable to the point where the general public doesn’t really know what they stand for. Nevertheless, it’s iconic and you notice it from a mile away. With initials like “James Bond” and its frequent appearances in film, it’s hard to miss.
The small hip-flask bottle is infamous and it’s one of the usual suspects that you’ll find abandoned at bus stops or street corners. Given that it’s cheap and fits easily in your pocket, it’s not particularly surprising.
Still, the label is quite stylish and features the crest of a royal warrant. Disregarding any associations it may have, it’s a stylish design.
When it comes to the occasion and versatility, it’s usually something that you hide in your desk for a cheeky nip. It’s a very casual drink and hardly something that’s used for special occasions. As mentioned earlier, it’s a very affordable cocktail ingredient that you can use when on a budget.
Price-wise, it’s cheap and cheerful. A regular 75 cl bottle should set you back just over $20 in the USA. Meanwhile, this small bottle cost me around 8€ in Europe. You’d probably get better value by spending a little more but it’s a decent solution on a tight budget.
Honestly, I was dreading having to review J&B Rare. In fact, when purchasing the small bottle, I couldn’t help but feel that people were judging me for being some sort of alcoholic. While it was marketed as a glamorous drink in the 1970s and earlier, it’s now perceived as a poor man’s blend, to say the least.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Although it’s a little rough around the edges, it’s certainly drinkable. In fact, it’s a perfectly acceptable option to have on the rocks or to be used in a cocktail as I mentioned above.
Charles-Philippe's work has covered a broad range of subjects from cigars and fragrances to wine and spirits. Fascinated by how history and culture together form the unique contemporary identities of alcoholic beverages, his articles follow an in-depth exploration of their development through a combination of tradition and innovation.