I was contacted by the Director of Spirits for Tampa institution Bern’s Steak House recently. He wanted to share with me a proprietary blended scotch, exclusive to Bern’s, which was blended for them by Compass Box. I jumped at the opportunity to taste a new Compass Box blend, so I agreed to taste a sample and share my thoughts. This is a bit out of the ordinary for me, as I usually review whiskies that retail for under $100 (which is getting harder and harder these days!), and as you’ll see below this is no budget whisky. (That’s why this isn’t taking the place of my weekly post.) Similar to Compass Box’s Hedonism, this is a blend of old (very old) grain whiskies: 5 casks of 40 year-old Strathclyde and Girvan were used.
If you have a hankering for some ancient grain, or can’t let a Compass Box blend go by untasted, the bottles are available for retail through the steak house’s wine and spirits shop, Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits, for $349.95. If you just want a taste, you can get a 1.5oz pour for $45 at Bern’s Steak House or a 1oz pour for $30 (2oz for $60) Haven, the newest Bern property, a restaurant with over 500 whiskies. You can also find a pour at the Epicurean Hotel, which sells it for the same price as Bern’s.
Disclaimer: I received a 50ml sample of the whisky from Bern’s to review. I was not paid or otherwise compensated for this review.
Nose: Intensely perfumed; rose petals and violets, with a large dollop of wildflower honey. Beneath that, vanilla crème brûlée.
Palate: Syrupy body, with waves of toasted coconut, nougat, vanilla latte, and almond butter. Never too much tongue burn, and the plethora of flavors persist the entire duration.
Finish: Of medium length. Tons of coconut, with drying oaky tannins and a pervasive nuttiness.
With Water: A few drops of water initially release a rush of alcohol fumes, but that resolves quickly. Still, the water seems to mute the floral notes without adding anything. The palate might burn the tongue a bit more with the added water. However, the finish gains an explosion of cinnamon and sugar. Try without water first, then add a little to the last few sips. If you do, let it rest in the glass a few minutes.
Overall: Very successful. This is a blend that envelops your senses with robust flavors without losing its “light and subtle” profile. It has interesting (and rare) flavors like steamed milk with espresso, and the most powerful burst of coconut I’ve experienced in a scotch. The components do not contain the dense quality one associates with older whiskies (especially older malts), but instead has been blended from grains that have stood the test of time while retaining their austerity and punch.