I got a bit over-excited about the Berry Bros. & Rudd dram appearing in my tasting journey. I’m a big fan of this oldest wine and spirit merchant from London and consider myself very lucky that I can simply walk over to the shop. The staff is friendly and accommodating, and I always find myself skipping away with something special and unique. I inevitably end up buying one of their independent bottlings, sometimes from an undisclosed distillery, sometimes from a tasty single cask. So when this Classic Speyside blend showed up in the Scotch Whisky advent calendar, I happily put on a light jacket [it’s incredibly warm in London for this time of the year – like 15 degrees!], a pair of headphones, and stroll over to the shop to find a perfect pairing for this taste. So let’s dive in. But first, music! Now playing: Bryce Dessner, Australian String Quartet & Sydney Dance Company – Impermanence/Disintegration.
This Classic Speyside Blended Malt claims a bronze medal from the International Spirits Challenge (2021), but I’m not one for ratings, trophies, and awards – let’s see what it attempts to capture from the region in this bottle. At first glance, from the colour and the nose, this blend, which presumably does not have any grain alcohol in it [hence “blended malt”], is grassy, almost floral and slightly citrusy. At 44.2% ABV, I prepare for the very first sip, and it comes in honey-sweet and woody, with plenty of bitterness that just lingers there and wouldn’t go away. That flavour doesn’t dissipate and leaves an aftertaste of drying straw and milky dandelion juice [don’t tell me that you haven’t licked it as a child]. I will admit – it is a bit unpleasant, and I switch over to the other dram – perhaps it is my taste buds playing tricks on me. I may need some ‘stabilization’ – which is why, again, I like to taste two drams side by side. But when I come back to taste this blended malt again, it is the bitterness and sulfur that still holds on like a bad memory, which just cannot push away. I think the whisky is a little young here, shrouded by the sweetness of the oak, which is what I end up with on the edges of my tastebuds. Perhaps my dram did not come from a recent bottling, awarded bronze in independent blended malts. I may decide to try this blend again – after all, it’s only £35.
Back in the shop, I choose to go with yet another blend to compare. I pick up a bottle of The Perspective Series 1, which is a 21-year-old Blended Scotch Whisky, also from the Berry Bros. & Rudd. Unlike the “blended malt”, there’s probably some grain in here, and it’s a lot darker in colour, which most likely comes from being aged in sherry casks. I do not notice this until I open the bottle, but the label features a beautiful B&W photograph by Lindsay Robertson, and The Perspective Series attempts to bring together two art forms: whisky-making and photography. There is even a larger printed glossy in the packaging, which I promptly set up on my shelf. I love photography, especially of distant and desolate places, like this image of Sandwood Bay, at the northwest tip of Scotland. That being said, again, I’m slightly wary of a distraction from the product. I love the combination of two “art forms” [let’s also do this with the music, please], but for this tasting, whisky is the first and foremost. The dram is immediately darker and waxier in flavour, with ripe fruit and dried plums and cherries on the nose. It’s just a little edgy on the finish, with bits of bitterness still seizing on my tongue. The sherry and the charred oak influence is present, translating into more spice, vanilla, and some leather. It’s a 21-year-old blend that feels a little younger, less refined, and I would like to attribute that to the added grain. Still, at 43% and £89 a bottle, I expected something smoother.
So let’s reflect on expectations once again. Remember, I have said that I was overly excited. It’s all about curbing one’s enthusiasm every time since you’ll set yourself up for rating relative to expectations. In my case, it came in a bit below my hopes, and if I didn’t have an outlook whatsoever, I might have been pleasantly surprised. Still, the bitterness [on both] is not what I desire. I’ll try the 21-year-old again, some time, perhaps, in another context and come back to share more thoughts on here. The Perspective Series also has a 25-year-old (at £145) and even a 35-year-old blend (at £250). For further interest, I look up other winners on that ISC – the Gold went to the Sherry Cask Matured and the Silver to the Peated Cask Matured, both blended malts, and both, again, from Berry Bros. & Rudd. With that, I’ll end and then proclaim that The Perspective Series wins this round.