February 2018: Compass Box Whisky

Host: Lee Bullock

This tasting is one that I have been thinking about for past 12 months, even before last year’s single grain tasting that I hosted.

Compass Box whisky is an independent bottler of Scotch whiskies and have brought, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air to the Scotch market in general. This tasting should also build on the last two tasting hosted by the esteemed Dr. Benson.

If you go to the Compass Box website, which I highly recommend, they have developed a few guiding principles that give you an insight into their company and their views on whisky:  1) Drink good whisky any way you like; there are no rules other than to share and enjoy; 2) Blending is a platform for creativity; 3) Good oak rules; 4) Good whiskies don’t need age statements; 5) Whisky should always be bottled without chill-filtering and at its natural color.

I feel like these beliefs align with Flight Clubs in that our entire club is built around rule #1 that is to share and enjoy, and through our tastings together we have found many times that the age statements on some whiskeys are more of a red herring as opposed to the quality of the spirit in the bottle.

Further background on Compass Box from their website:

“Back in 2000, John Glaser believed there were too many companies making and selling Scotch whisky the same way. An American, transplanted to the UK and working for a large distiller, he wanted to do things differently to bring the joys of Scotch whisky to more people.

So, he set up a different kind of Scotch whisky company, based on the long-lost model of the Scotch whisky blending house, but with a forward-looking approach and an unrelenting desire to create quality. He originally launched the business from his kitchen, but today, over a decade later, Compass Box has an office and Blending Room in London, its own stocks of maturing whiskies in Scotland, and just over a dozen employees.

In an industry that has steadfastly remained committed to ‘the way we’ve always done things’, at Compass Box we focus relentlessly on creativity, process innovations, and exploring the many ways we all can enjoy the pleasures of Scotch whisky.

With more spectrum of flavour and style than any other spirit, we believe Scotch whisky is one of the world’s great drinks. We are here to help ensure it stays that way for generations to come.”

Cocktail:

Name: Whisky Sour (recipe recommended by Jill Boyd, Whisky Maker at Compass Box)

Ingredients: Compass Box Orangerie Whisky, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Egg White, Orange Peel, Ice.

Recipe: Combine 2 ounces Orangerie, 1 ounce Lemon Juice, ½ ounce Simple Syrup, ½ ounce egg white over ice in a shaker. Shake aggressively for 20 – 30 seconds, strain into glass filled with ice, take Orange Peel and wipe around rim then drip in drink for garnish.

  • Bottle 1Hedonism
    Compass Box

    • Country of Origin: Scotland
    • Distillery: Blend
    • Age: NAS
    • Proof: 86
    • Price: $99
    • Purchase location: Plaza Wine and Spirits
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Vanilla custard, brown sugar, a bit floral, sweet butter, dank oak, apple peel.
      • Palate: Quite sweet, but not a sharp white sugar sweetness, more like a sweet pastry; a bit briny; oily, cloves.
      • Finish: Medium; the palate carries straight through, but with a touch of creme brulee as well.
    • Why this bottle is featured: Hedonism is part of Compass Box’s signature line that encompasses a wide spectrum of their blended offerings. I wanted to make sure we included bottles from the signature line as well as bottles from their limited releases.
  • Bottle 2Phenomenology
    Compass Box

    • Country of Origin: Scotland
    • Distillery: Blend
    • Age: NAS
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $179.99
    • Purchase location: Plaza Wine and Spirits
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Pineapple flavored coconut water; green apple jolly rancher; butter; shrub.
      • Palate: Green apple; pear; chili lime spice; some sea salt.
      • Finish: Medium; tropical fruits come back, but there’s a spice and heat that makes this finish like something much higher than 92 proof. There is also the lasting effect similar to after drinking soda water.
    • Why this bottle is featured: Phenomenology is one of Compass Box’s limited edition releases. Only 7,908 bottles of this were released. It was bottled in 2017. With this whisky, Compass Box wants you to see how this whisky affects and taste to you, understanding that there is no right or wrong answer.  Phenomenology is the science or study of phenomena concentrating on the consciousness of the objects that experience the phenomena as opposed to the phenomena itself.
  • Bottle 3The Spice Tree
    Compass Box

    • Country of Origin: Scotland
    • Distillery: Blend
    • Age: NAS
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $63.99
    • Purchase location: Plaza Wine and Spirits
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Somewhat flat but complex; pear, pastry dough, bee’s wax, mossy, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, ginger root, cloves
      • Palate: The entire baking spice rack; pears, cloves, some buttered popcorn, honey.
      • Finish: Medium-long; the strongest finish of the bottles so far, with the baking spices lingering for some time; baked cinnamon apples, peaches, apricot.
    • Why this bottle is featured: The Spice Tree is one of Compass Box’s signature Scotches, and is also the whisky that started making a name for Compass Box as willing to break the rules.  They were forced to discontinue The Spice Tree after legal threats from the SWA because they had used French oak staves in the maturation process. They relaunched The Spice Tree in 2009 after developing a new maturation process that did not draw the ire of the SWA. This is also the first Compass Box whisky I tried and confirmed the we needed to do this tasting.
  • Bottle 43 Year-Old Deluxe
    Compass Box

    • Country of Origin: Scotland
    • Distillery: Blend
    • Age: 3 Years (wink, wink)
    • Proof: 98.4
    • Price: $269.99
    • Purchase location: Plaza Wine and Spirits
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Strong raw yeast dough, then  stone fruit emerges; sponge cake; cast iron.
      • Palate: There is an initial cooling effect; metallic, mineral; pasta noodle; some rare beef.
      • Finish: Shorter that the other bottles; metallic, banana, earthy.
    • Why this bottle is featured: Bottled in August 2016 with 3,282 bottles available. This whisky is in response to EU and UK regulations that forbid Compass Box from giving full disclosure and transparency on their blends.  Compass Box has for the most part not given age statements on their blends as UK rules will only allow for the youngest Scotch to be listed on the label. The problem is not with this rule, but the regulations only permit them to share details of the youngest age component.  This is not an issue with Compass Box. But the further rule that you can’t also disclose the full blend to let the consumers know what else may be in the blend was an issue.  With that in mind the 3-year-old deluxe was introduced “a Blended Malt whisky composed of just under 1% three year-old malt whisky produced near the village of Brora, a little over 90% malt whisky of an unstated but considerably older age from the same distillery and 9% peaty malt whisky, distilled on the Isle of Skye.”
  • Bottle 5: No Name
    Compass Box

    • Country of Origin: Scotland
    • Distillery: Blend
    • Age: NAS
    • Proof: 97.8
    • Price: $129.99
    • Purchase location: Plaza Wine and Spirits
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Strong peat, soot, dirt, extinguished campfire; some citrus underneath, lemon, salty brine, oysters.
      • Palate: Peaty, seaweed, fishy, squid ink pasta, oily, some vanilla and barnyard hay.
      • Finish: Medium; smoky trout chip dip, stone fruit, some light vanilla.
    • Why this bottle is featured: This bottle is the peatiest whisky offered by Compass Box. The idea behind the name of this whisky was to let the whisky speak for itself. I enjoy peaty whiskies and wanted to see what this bottle had to offer.

 

 

Gentlemen devoted to the finest.

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