Review: Compass Box Flaming Heart Blended Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

See Below
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

“Every great achievement is the victory of a Flaming Heart.” – Emerson

Compass Box is my favorite whisky company, and I love the stuff they produce – this was one of my most anticipated bottles which I opened to celebrate my engagement earlier this year. A number of Flaming Hearts have been released – all limited editions starting in 2006.

The 15th anniversary bottling, alongside This is Not a Luxury Whisky, is what prompted Compass Box to start petitioning to the Scotch Whisky Association for better transparency. This was requested because the Scotch Whisky Association made Compass Box remove the ages on their components as the only age you are allowed to describe the whisky is the youngest age (in this case 7 years). However, that Flaming Heart release (reviewed below) is mostly not 7 years old:

  • 27.1% 30 year old Caol Ila from a refill American oak hogshead

  • 24.1% 20 year old Clynelish from a rejuvenated oak hogshead

  • 10.3% 7 year old blend of Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dailuane finished for at least 2 years in new French Oak Hybrid Barrels

  • 38.5% 14 year old Caol Ila from a refill American oak hogshead

Review (2017)

  • Batch: 15th Anniversary, 5th Release

  • Bottling Code: L14 09 15 3 21:19 BB

  • Bottling Date: July 2015

Bottled at cask strength, 12,060 bottles, non-chill filtered and natural color.

This is gorgeous. Lots of brilliant fruit – apples, grape, stewed peach, canned apricot, orange zest – surrounded by terrific marine minerals, honey, wood charcoal, vanilla, old mossy oak, and smoke. And let’s not forget the clove, cinnamon, and celery seed. The mix is so enticing – a cohesive blend of smoky, spicy, and creamy. Ralfy describes this as “soft and intense” – he hit the bullseye there. Opens up nicely too – it softens and broadens.

The palate starts with sharp smoke, before letting way to juicy, creamy, grain and fruit before shifting to darker oak and spice, with growing smoke. It dries as the smoke and spice rule the finish, but not overpowering the fruit, rich malt, or wood. The finish has a wonderful drying effect, spicy feel, and developing flavours – sometimes dried fruit, sometimes smoke, sometimes oak. The way that the mouthfeel holds with a creamy texture the different seemingly disparate textures and flavors is amazing. Exceedingly complex and interesting.

Let me take another go at this, because it is so intricate and so many elements are at play – the smoke sits on top, creamy oak sits underneath, and the fruit is embraced between the two. And then there are spices at so many levels – underneath, in the middle, above – and the earthy peat weaves in and out of all levels of the flavors. And this all leads to a full bodied finish which has various levels of flavours and textures as you drink it. Savour this one slowly – there is much to discover.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation). This is right up my alley – immensely intriguing, enjoyable, and engaging. One of the finest Scotch whiskies I have ever tasted.

Value: Average. It’s an absolutely fantastic whisky, but the price can be a bit steep (~250 CAD). If this is available cheaper, say around 150 CAD, as it was in Alberta, this becomes a high value whisky.