It’s that time of year people. The time when we’re all ready for it: The Blend-a-Thon! Yup, my completely unique.. wait, what? /u/tintin777 has been doing a blend-a-thon? Or a vatted-a-thon?
Well fuck. That’s what I get for waiting months to finally review blends. Or vats.
As an aside, to make everything easy, I’m going to call all of these blends. Are some of them not blends? Yes, you’re correct, in the technical sense they are not blends, or blended, or vatted, or hung upside down, or praised by a priest or bled on by an Irishman.
I’d prefer to not get hung up on terminology though, so I’m calling them blends. If you’d like a breakdown, /u/tintin777 recently did some reviews where he gets nerdy with the terms, and I think he explained it all well.
So, to start off the series I’m calling “The Blender: A totally not rip-off of /u/tintin777‘s review series” with Compass Box Whisky Co.
John Glaser (because if you work in the whisky industry, your name better start with a ‘J’) started the company back in 2000. An American ex-Pat who plays Laird on HBOs Girls, it’s surprising he has time to be a whiskymaker… wait, I think I’ve gotten him mixed up with someone else.
John Glaser is a former marketing director at Johnnie Walker. The company itself doesn’t distill whisky, and use whisky from a variety of distilleries.
So, let’s see if the current King of Blends (named that by no one) lives up to the hype, shall we?
We’ll start out a little oddly. And the reason for that is I’m a little odd.
Also I have a bad habit of leading with my bad foot. The Tango is a Toe crushing catastrophe.
Compass Box Orangerie is one of now many infused whiskies on the market. And… well, I’m a tad worried to try it. Because I don’t like Orange that much.
Okay, I like oranges. And OJ, and even Orange Sorbet or Tiger Tail Ice Cream. That’s all fine and well.
What I don’t like are Terry’s Oranges or Orange infused chocolate chip cookies.
So, there’s my bias. I’m not a fan of Orange. And I don’t mean politically or for religious reasons, so if you start with that shit, I’ll smack you right upside the head.
Price: $59.80 (CAD) at the LCBO
Composition: Highland Single Malt, Fife Single Grain, Indonesian Cassia Bark, Sri Lankan Cloves, and Navalino hand-zested Orange Zest.
This sounds interesting. Highlands typically have a smooth, floral, and sometimes maritime or honey flavour to them. Any of those could pair well with cassia (think cinnamon flavour, though weaker), cloves, and orange.
Nose: Orange, orange rind, sugar syrup, mint, cream, alcohol
Okay, there’s orange in there. So much so I think all the wasps in the surrounding area woke up as I opened the bottle (that means it’s strong).
After you get past the initial flashback of Orange, there’s a sweet, if a little strong alcohol scent. Don’t be fooled though: It still smells like orange, through and through.
Taste: Orange, butter cream, lime, cement mixer shot, grenadine
Kinda like a Creamsicle, which I enjoy on occasion. Also super sweet. Tons of orange flavour. Overpoweringly so.
If you don’t know what a Cement Mixer shot is, just order one next time you’re at a bar. It’ll be awesome.
Finish: Orange rind, metal, caramel, purple free-zee, cocoa
The finish is bitter, bitter, and more bitter. And I know I complain about things being bitter, so let’s just leave that alone for a second.
It’s also just not tasty at all. Too sweet, flavours don’t mesh well, it’s too acidic and acrid, and there’s a metal taste that isn’t “Fuck Yeah, METAL!” more like “Fuck, yeah… rust”.
Conclusion: This is an interesting idea. And I can’t fault them at all for making it. People enjoy orange in many ways. And in some ways, this works.
And then you have the finish and it ruins the whole thing. Overall, needs more work, so I’d avoid buying it.
Back in the day, Compass Box had an idea. Take some whiskies from the Northern Highlands vatt/blend/mix them, and then mature/age/fuck them using virgin French Oak staves. Compass Box Spice Tree was born.
And then caused the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said they couldn’t do it. Because it wasn’t normally done. Like rolling in mold into cheese, or adding bubbles to wine through a second fermentation, or treating anyone other than a specific group in a country with respect and dignity. As well all know, all of these situations
Since this is the ‘Internet Age’, the press got a hold of the story and ended up making this the ‘illegal whisky’. Sales went through the roof, and the 2005 edition quickly sold out.
Compass Box resisted the urge to fight a well funded entity like the SWA, so they figured out a new way of making Compass Box Spice Tree. I’d explain it if I understood it better, however let’s just say that Coopers from two countries were involved, and it takes first-fill whiskies, re-racks them in barrels with three levels of toasting and French oak heads.
Now I’m cross eyed. Let’s just see how this tastes.
Price: $67.95 (CAD) at the LCBO
Composition: 100% Northern Highland Distilleries (notably Clynelish)
Bias time! I know everyone LOVES bias time. I am not a big Highland fan. There. I said it. Move along.
Colour: Burnt gold
Nose: Lemon, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple, pear, mint, grapefruit, lime
Lots of spices in here, like Grandma’s Pumpkin pie (it’s very spicy and uses spices like those above). Also a lot of citrus. I like the nose, though when you break it down it’s different variations on spices and fruit, so not too complex.
Taste: Ginger cake, floral, anise, poppyseed, lemon, caramel
Again, spicy. What a surprise, especially given the name (this is sarcasm to reinforce a point).
Again, there’s elements of spice and Highland smoothness. It’s not too ‘out there’ yet it has a big punch of flavour.
Finish: Lemon, basil, ginger, mint, brown butter
Little bit lacking on the finish. Short, somewhat hot in that too much spice way. It’ll make you think you’re on Dune with all the thoughts of spice (Dune is a book where Spice is brought up).
Conclusion: Like a piano with only two keys, this whisky is only 2 notes: Fruit and Spice. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I actually enjoyed sitting back with a smooth dram that had a nice taste. The finish needs fixing, yet other than that, it’s on its way. I’ve heard talk that the older Spice Tree is better, and for now I’ll just take that at face value.
If you enjoy Highlands, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re like me and need a little bit more, then you may want to just have 1 dram of it.
1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #187
101 Whiskies to try before you die review #49
I am a peat head. I know I’m a peat head, and I specifically avoid trying multiple peated whiskies because of it. Why? Because I know I like Peated Whiskies. I enjoy them, I try them, and I enjoy them. It’s a circle. So I try other things to expand my repertoire.
Also Ontario charges more for Islays, so that stops me too. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to review them, I just usually trade for something else and save them for a special occasion.
Compass Box The Peat Monster has been saved for such a special occasion. I like peated whisky from multiple sources, not just Islay, so this should be good, as it’s peated whisky from a bunch of sources.
Price: N/A at the LCBO at the moment
Composition: Islay south shore malt, a undisclosed location peated malt, Island of Mull Malt, and a Medium Peated Speyside Malt.
So the Isle of Mull is Ledaig, the south shore is either Lagavulin or Laphroaig (guessing Laphroaig) or Ardbeg (not them, not peaty enough), the undisclosed is maybe Highland Park? Who knows, could be anywhere. And the Medium Peated Speyside? I’d say BenRiach, however I’d probably be off. Ardmore maybe?
Nose: Peat, lemon curd, toffee, apple/pear, tangerine, scallion
Yup, this is peated. Not a huge peat bomb, but the peat is there.
There’s an interesting group of flavours alongside the peat. Fruity, sweet, somewhat acidic, and even a little meaty. Good so far.
Taste: Pepper, pear, smoke, salted caramel, milk chocolate
Big punch of pepper, right in the face. And sweet as well. Nice mixture of the two. It’s a little hotter and less peat forward than what I’m used to, though nice.
Finish: Peat, orange, cocoa, coconut, white peach, raspberry
Hey, there’s Peat in the finish? Aren’t you surprised?
And by Raspberry, I mean more so a tart aspect rather than the full berry flavour. Earthy sweet finish too. A little overwhelming on the earth.
Conclusion: Yup, it’s a peaty blend. Next?
Seriously though, this is done very well. It has different layers of what peated whiskies can show off, it isn’t just smooth and forgetable, and has some unique aspects. It’s a tad weak; that’s the one main issue. The flavours are there, just… muted, I guess. Hard to really tell what caused that.
That said, buy this instead of Black Bottle. It’s just better in all ways, and generally does the job right.
1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #188
I’m a huge sweets fan. Always have been, since I was a kid. And back then (the late 80s), that was okay, because we didn’t know what Childhood Obesity was. Or just thought I would be fat ‘like my father’, who wasn’t actually that big.
Anyway, one of the biggest things I always craved were cinnamon hearts. I would eat them by the handful. Tons of them. To this day, Cinnamon Buns don’t taste right unless they are covered in spice. More than most people can (or should) stand.
There’s my bias. Compass Box Flaming Heart, Fourth Release, has some things in it that I am biased towards. This release is named after a rock song. Which rock song? I’m assuming something by the Flaming Lips, but it could also just be Heart. Who knows.
What I do know is the Highland in this mixed was aged in first-fill French oak, while they don’t tell me where the Islay was aged. And a little bit of the ‘whisky’ (again, no idea which) was aged in Sherry.
Alright, that sounds smashing, let’s see how this limited edition stacks up.
Price: N/A at the LCBO at the moment
Composition: Mostly Highland and heavily-peated Islay malts, with a little Island and Speyside malts as well.
So either I’ll hate this due to the Highland aspects or love it due to the ‘heavily-peated’ Islay aspects.
And by Heavily-peated, I hope they got their hands on some Ardbeg or even Octomore.
Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?
Nose: Smoked caramel, pear, cinnamon, anise, lime cordial, mango
Okay, this is interesting. It has more developed flavours than other drams I’ve been having, has a unique side to it, and overall smells nice.
Not to mention there’s a cinnamon element to it that I am a sucker for.
Taste: Cinnamon hearts, pepper, peach, lemongrass, floral
Read the top part about my bias. I love this dram. It’s fiery strong and tasty. Not to mention there’s just something about Cinnamon hearts that I’m loving more and more.
Yup, I’m biased, this is good.
Finish: Cinnamon, apple muffin, cherry, ginger, raisin, mint
Like the nose, the finish has these more complex flavours in it than I was expecting. Really tasty, and leaves me wanting more.
Conclusion: This is done really well. The Nose and Finish have some uniqueness and complexity. The taste is a little ‘one note’ and slightly unbalanced, though I’m a sucker for it. I’d buy a bottle of this to have as a sipper around the house.
1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #189
Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend
Price: $46.95 (CAD) at the LCBO
Composition: 46% Lowland Grain Whisky, 28% Northern Highland Single Malt, 17% a different Northern Highland Single Malt, and 9% Speyside Single Malt
That’s… kinda precise. Seems to be made up of lighter flavours than heavy ones. I’ll keep that in mind while tasting it.
Nose: Yeast, lemon zest, charcoal, perfume, candied grapefruit, nectarines, pound cake
Had to take some extra time, as I was baking bread while sipping this, so I thought I was smelling the bread.
And no, that’s not a euphemism, I was actually baking bread. And it wasn’t the bread smell causing the yeast note.
Anyway, this is a really unique nose. A little floral, quite sweet, and a good amount of fruity notes. I’m intrigued.
Taste: Dry lemon, hot, soda water, sour cream, cream of tartar
It’s hard to explain the flavour. Dry is the number one part, however there’s also a… chemical note maybe? Or a vodka note perhaps? Hard to say.
Finish: Potato, floral, mineral water, oregano, dry, tonic water
Oh, it was potato, that was the note. Again, quite unique, and different. Almost like a herbal gin and tonic maybe. Not my cup of tea, however there’s quality here.
Conclusion: So, the question is: How do I score something that I think had interesting, unique notes that I personally wasn’t a fan of?
I’m going to say this: If you want something herbal and dry, this is the whisky for you. It hits the notes it needs to and then some. I’m not a fan, however I can’t say don’t or do buy this unless you try it first. So try it.
1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #190
Scotch reviews #255-259, Blend reviews #16-20, Whisky Network Reviews #388-392