In mid-January, we received an email from Dean Hurst, Director of Spirits at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, Florida. He wanted to know if we were interested in reviewing a blended grain whisky that was specially made for Bern’s Steak House by Compass Box Whisky Company. Given that you’re now reading a post about the Bern’s Limited Edition Blended Grain Whisky, we obviously agreed to give it a try.
When I mentioned to Limpd via email that this whisky was headed our way, his initial response after reading Mr. Hurst’s job title was as follows:
First, what kind of a restaurant has a Director of Spirits? That’s a real job? Is that posted anywhere?
We emailed back and forth for a bit after that. I sent him a few links and mentioned that I saw a brief story about Bern’s Steak House on the Tampa episode of Zane Lamprey’s Drinking Made Easy. I also told him about what intrigued me most about this landmark Tampa restaurant: their wine and spirits selection. They currently stock 6,800+ bottles of wine, and their Dessert Spirits menu, which lists numerous types of brandy, eau de vie, whisky, grappa, tequila, and cordials, is 18 pages long. All of this wine and booze is managed by three Sommeliers and one Director of Spirits.
So to answer Limpd’s question, yes, Director of Spirits is a very real job. Here is a short video of Dean Hurst in action, doing what he does best: making a mouthwateringly delicious looking cocktail…
Now that you know a bit about Bern’s Steak House and have seen their Director of Spirits in action, let’s get some information about this bespoke whisky from Compass Box. Here’s what John Glaser has to say about the Bern’s Limited Edition Blended Grain Whisky:
We were thrilled to be asked by the folks at Bern’s to create a bespoke Scotch whisky for them. Wanting to create something unlike anything else they offered, we painstakingly sought out rare old parcels of hard- to-find Scotch grain whiskies.
The recipe combines just five complementary casks of 41 year-old whisky, sourced from the Girvan and Strathclyde distilleries in the Lowlands. The extensive aging on American oak creates a rich and elegant whisky redolent of vanilla and caramel. We hope you enjoy
Let’s get on with our review…
- Appearance: Rich, golden color.
- ABV: 50.6%
- Limpd: Obviously, a big hit of alcohol (given the ABV) with a slightly medicinal, almost antiseptic quality. After that, I detect a little menthol, a little vanilla and a little hint of pears.
- G-LO: Quite a bit going on here. Spicy, minty, herbally, and even a touch fruity all at the same time. Starts with clove and allspice. Transitions to a Cinnamon and Peppermint Altoid mash-up. Shifts once more to light brown sugar, dried fruit, and vanilla.
- Limpd: A good bit of viscosity with some cane sugar sweetness followed immediately by heat. First, from a cinnamon that paralyzes the tongue and then from the alcohol burn. There is a return to sweetness in the finish which is a bit shorter than I had expected. Very warming and pleasant, but short.
- G-LO: The mouthfeel is thick and slightly oily. There’s a bit of alcohol heat at the start, but it settles down pretty quickly. I’m finding this to be really astringent, particularly on the front third of my tongue. Lots of dried fruit and baking spices from start to finish with only a slight bit of heat coming through. Some of that herbally Altoid quality comes through in the aftertaste with a lingering cinnamon/wintergreen tingle.
- Limpd: This was a very well-crafted whisky. I really enjoyed the balance and how the flavors complemented each other. I guess given the quality I should be thankful that I got any (I could hardly have blamed G-LO if he had done this review solo) but I find myself wishing I had some more. And, maybe a nice steak (medium with mushrooms and creamed spinach). Mmmmm, if only we had a Booze Dancing plane!
- G-LO: I went in to this tasting expecting to experience a slight variation on Compass Box’s Hedonism, i.e. something sweet and creamy. What I got was a richer and bolder grain whisky blend. Overall, I really liked it, but I didn’t love it. Given the age of the whiskies used in this blend, I think my expectations were a little too high going in. I’d love to revisit this, but as you can see, I played nice and left enough for Limpd to taste. Perhaps a trip to Tampa is in order.