Speyside #4 (TBWC) vs Speyside 30-year-old (BR)

I will begin this write-up by confessing that this tasting is a “redo”. I have originally compared these two drams side by side about a week ago, at the very end of my journey through the 2021st edition of the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar. I finally finished it all (!), and the very last pour was this mysterious Speyside #4 aged 24 years from That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC). I immediately decided to pair with another undisclosed single malt, also from Speyside, but this time bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd (BR) and a little older, aged 30 years (bottled in 2020). Somehow throughout the tasting, I rushed it through, forgot to take some notes, ran out of time, and finished with a meal. The next thing I knew, the whiskies were gone, and I had not compared them. And this was the very last dram in the box! How could I let it go! So yes, I have dug out another bottle of this Speyside #4 (I’ve got my ways), and here we are again. So let us finish this off, but first, we need music! Now playing: Sven Laux & Logic MoonThe Unavoidable Death of Loneliness.

TBWC continues to impress. I’m starting to fall in love with their individual distillery bottlings, and this is a very curious single malt. Besides the whimsical imagery, there is a riddle on the label, and it goes something like this: “And the Gods of Whisky spoke to Dave, bestowing upon him great powers and detailing his epic mission… Take Banjolnir, it will help you in your quest against the Whiskyfinder General.” Are there some clues as to the source of this enigmatic single malt? I’m sure. Alas, I can’t decipher. Am I supposed to be the Whiskyfinder General? And pictured Dave, who is Dave Worthington from TBWC himself, will use the Banjolnir to steer astray? I’ve searched a bit, but I gave up. So let’s turn to the liquid. It’s light and golden, almost the colour of summer-dried straw, with light fruit on the nose, with plenty of ripe apples, peaches, and bananas. At first taste, it is sweet and sugary like candy floss, with most of its fruity notes wholly gone, except perhaps those slowly-stewed bananas. And with a splash of water, it smoothes out, becomes a lot more round with a silky finish. At 47.8% ABV, it tastes a little young; there is no sherry in the cask (at least none that I notice). But as I let it breathe, the age appears. This is the first batch of this malt, and I’ve spied others. It’s hard to peel this one apart, and will your search pay off here? Perhaps you’ll find your way along with bottlings from Strathisla, and I shall leave my quest at that.

I also love my Berry Bros. & Rudd. I’ve previously profiled two of their blends, but this one is a single malt. As such, it is non-coloured and non-chill filtered, and directly from the cask. This “undisclosed” Speyside bottled by BR was distilled in 1990, drawn from a cask with the reference number 18002. That’s all we know as well. Although a later barrel (18005) which also was a secret Speyside, mentioned Rothes on the label. This is a town in Speyside, with currently three operating distilleries: Glen Grant, Glen Spey, and then, of course, Glenrothes. But guessing here is moot, so let us taste the whisky. The colour is the same as the above unknown. It’s stronger on the alcohol, at 48.9% ABV, but fainter on the nose. It’s sweet and woody with a slight acerbic tang. It clearly needs some water as it scrapes a bit against the throat because it’s bottled at cask strength. Those new to Scotch may be put off at some of the ruggedness that could be found in this 30-year bottle. One would expect it to be smooooth. But with some time in the glass and little water, it starts to open up. The oak is there with some spice now, some butter biscuits and a brisk-walk summer breeze. It still retains that slightly bitter bite, but I’m a fan of it and thus admire it with a favourable view. I’ve got yet another bottle of a Speyside, also undisclosed, and yes, again from Berry Bros. & Rudd, and when I taste it on the side, it’s sweeter, syrupy, and dense. I’d like to pair these side by side one day, and so I’ll leave that for another moment. Today I want to finish off that calendar already!

Well, there you have it, folks. Two secret Speysides on the tray. Can we ignore the label? Can we enjoy the whisky without name? I think the answer should be yes, and yet, I will admit there is this nagging feeling in the back that begs to have the truth revealed. Why would someone not share their name? Was it, perhaps, unrepresentative of their staple? Some legal contract or the like? Control of brand’s supply/demand? Protective of the image? I do not know. But it, of course, encourages you to strip away with label [pun intended] and enjoy the bottled single malt. With this, I will conclude and then proclaim that BR 30-year-old takes this round.

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