Bertha, Big Bertha to her friends, was an exquisite, whiskey-drinking, grand dame of a cow. She was a Droimeann, a now endangered Irish breed that whether black, white, or red, are typically defined by a long, pale brushstroke of a stripe that extends from neck to tail. Bertha was beautiful then, but she was also very important. At the time of Bertha’s death at 48, she was not only the world’s oldest-ever cow but had also birthed a world record 39 calves. It goes without saying that Bertha was a bit of a celebrity in County Kerry, her home in southwesternmost Ireland.
During New Year’s Eve 1993, writer Turtle Bunbury stumbled upon a wake for Bertha in a small Kerry pub called The Blackwater Tavern. He later wrote about the experience for The Guardian and it is an absolute must-read. Seriously, go read it as soon as you’ve finished this review. It’s brilliant and seems to have largely served as the inspiration for the branding of this, the flagship release of the Ballyvolane House, a former dairy farm and estate in neighboring County Cork.
In keeping with the spirit of both the property and the gin’s namesake, Bertha’s Revenge is produced by converting the milk sugars in whey into alcohol. How does this impact the profile of the gin? Spoiler: I’m not entirely sure. On the nose there’s an incredible amount of coriander up front, flanked by lemon peel and black pepper. It’s overtly spicy and makes for an interesting greeting in a gin-forward cocktail.
The palate is botanically vibrant citrus, with more of that unique coriander note and a really satisfying, lightly numbing white pepper finish. The aforementioned spiciness is buoyed by a pleasant, and at the risk of seeming suggestible, creamy mouthfeel. Whether or not this can be attributed to the use of whey versus a traditional grain base I honestly do not know.
On that topic of suggestibility, it’s always a tightrope walk when discussing a brand’s story during a review, as it’s ultimately just marketing. Everyone has a Story. Everyone has or had a pappy, a grandpappy, or a great-grandpappy. But not everyone has or had a Bertha. It’s a remarkable account of a great cow, represented by some very good gin. I hope she’s pleased.