That’s right, a scotch tasting at the historic Berry Bros. and Rudd in London, Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant, having traded from the same shop for over 300 years. If that’s not intimidating enough, our host for the tasting is Doug McIvor, the Spirits Manager — the man who has garnished many awards and is responsible for all BB&R’s whisky blending and making activities.
We rounded up a couple friends to join us and showed up not knowing exactly what to expect. We started with Champagne and a little history of the store then Doug arrived, the room hushed and we were initiated into the society of scotch whiskey tasters with a 1990 Berry’s Own Selection Bladnoch, a light colored and slightly oaky (American oak) whisky we were told would be perfect for an aperitif.
We continued through 5 more wee-tastes ranging from the lighter to the heavier and smokier. Doug was a fabulous host, so expert he made my ignorance profound in comparison. He told us about the various blends and why he selected them and about the individual small whisky makers and the regions. I told Michelle that my Scotch knowledge had increased by 1000x by Doug using 1% or his knowledge.
After a delightful tasting we sat down to a wonderful lunch before buying a few bottles, available exclusively there.
Factoid: There are basically three kinds of scotches (technically more, but I simplify). Most common is a blend like Dewars or Cutty Sark. These contain about 70% whisky produced from practically any grain like corn or rye and 30% whiskeys made from just malted barley made by those who we know as the “single malt producers”. Most of the whisky these artisanal producers make is not sold under their own label, “Glenlivet” for example, but is blended into the large brands. What they sell directly are known as the “single malts”.
There is another kind, a bit of a rarity and blended by BB&R – a blend of single malts from more than one producer producing what is called a “blended malt whisky”. These were some of my favorites.
I don’t think I will add regular scotch sipping to my already long list of vices, but it was fun and educational.