Compass Box

Review: Great King Street Artist's Blend MomofUku Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

Great King Street Momofoku.jpg
ABV
49%
Aging
~7-12 yrs; American and French oak
Recipe
Grain & Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This great king street has been selected by Momofuku, an LA based restaurant (with a chain in Toronto) based on a single marrying sherry casks which was used to marry the whisky after an initial blending. It was married for some time – about 2.5 years. This secondary maturation used to be commonplace, according to Compass Box. It is also bottled at 49%, higher than the standard…this is probably going to be good!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Sherried Marrying Cask, Selected by Momofuku. Married 18 Feb 2016, Bottled 16 July 2018. Cask 3.

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Quite what you might expect – the white grape and clean grain character of Great King Street, but overlayed with dried fruit – orange, mango, raisin – and more baking spice and a touch of rancio. I actually really like it – the brightness of the original blend, in terms of its grain and its fruit – has been retained, yet more has been added on top. A bit of white wine, too.

The palate starts with bright grain, orange, and light earthiness – but then the raisins and clove kick in, finishing with a flourish of sherry and light tannin. The palate has great feel too – both feel, but also the movement of textures – from thick and fat to dry and tannic. The finish has green pear, a touch of earthy barley, and a bit more clove. Excellent! The 49% carries itself well, too.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. This is a great whisky, a bit more expensive than the ordinary Artist’s blend, but has added richness and umph which keeps the value high.


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

ABV
48.9%
Aging
See Below
Recipe
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.


Review: This is Not a Luxury Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
53.1%
Aging
19-40 yrs
Recipe
Grain and Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky, released in 2015, is referring to the famous painting of a pipe, The Treachery of Images, causing the drinker to ponder the definition of a luxury whisky. The contents, certainly, are noteworthy: 79% 19 year old Glen Ord from ex-sherry butts, 10.1% Strathclyde 40 year old from refill bourbon barrels, 6.9% Girvan 40 year old single grain from refill American oak, 4% Caol Ila 30 years old. Bottled at the undiluted strength of 53.1% that such a blend produced, and without colour or chill-filtration. Here we go:


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Very rich – and very oaky. Peaches, daisies, light earthiness, vanilla, marzipan, leather, dried apricot, potpourri, marzipan, malt, mixed nuts, chamomile, cedar - it all slowly unfolds. The palate is loaded – lots of peaches, smoke, oak, pear, white raisins, mango puree - incredibly complex – a wave of vanilla, oak, spices, and light salt and smoke on the finish. The peach fills out the middle really nicely, with some leather and tobacco in the background, and the finish is complex but light. As it sits, the leather-y and old notes come out more and the balance seems to improve. Brilliant stuff, and the grain does some great work here too.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. Not a cheap whisky, and, at this price, it would have to be near perfect to be worthwhile in my books.


Review: Hedonism Blended Grain Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Grain Whisky (i.e. non-barley; see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This is a blended grain whisky – matured in 100% first fill bourbon casks from grain distilleries – Cameron Bridge, Cambus, Port Dundas, or Dumbarton. Each batch varries in vatting depending on availability and flavour. A typical vatting: 66% grain from Cameron Bridge aged in a first fill American oak barrel, 32% grain whisky from Port Dundas aged in a first fill American oak barrel, and 2% grain whisky from Port Dundas aged in a rejuvenated oak barrel. Blended grain whiskies are very rare - there are only a handful around - so it is a worthwhile experience particularly if you are not familiar with blended grain whiskies.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: MMX IV-A

  • Bottling Code: 06/02/2014 L3 17:CB

  • Bottling Date: 2014

A bit dark, but definitely a grain whisky...rich corn, toasted coconut, vanilla, caramel, fresh oak (though, of course, not in the magnitude of a bourbon), with supporting elegance and age as well. Quite complex and deep, and very lightly oily as well. Definitely tastes like first fill bourbon casks…which, indeed, it is. Wonderfully thick in the mouth, following the path of the nose with perhaps a touch less depth being realized, staying true to vanilla and coconut and light corn influences. At the end, a touch of maple too. A bit dusty too!

For Canadian readers - this is similar, in a broad sense, to many aged Canadian corn whiskies produced by Highwood, but lacks some of the floral element that often is present in those whiskies.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. A nice whisky, but it comes at a price.


Review: The Peat Monster Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

Peat Monster 1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

A marriage of Islay single malts and heavily peated highland malts, matured in first fill and refill American oak casks. A vatted malt. 40% laphroaig refill hogshead, 20% ledaig refill hogshead, 13% caol ila refill hogshead, 26% Ardmore refill hogshead, 1% blend of clynelish, dailuaine, and teanich in a French oak hybrid barrel - a ”burgundy” toast. As typical with Compass Box, natural colour and non-chill filtered. More here.

On a side note, I wasn't that impressed with this one until I had sampled a variety of different peated whiskies and understood the variety and integration here present. It's impressive.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Nose: Both medicinal, slightly funky Islay peat as well as the woody peat of the highlands - it is well balanced. It makes for a nice effect - rich, bonfire like woodsmoke with some seaweed thrown in....I do quite like what has been done with the peat on this one. It's more smoky than earthy, though there is still some boggy earthiness. Yet, it's still impressively light, with a lemon-like citrusy character which lifts the whole nose up. Some of the peat is a bit sooty too - I am spending so much time just slowly unpeeling the peat on the nose. Impressive.

Taste: It's largely smoke, with a nice level of underlying sweetness, a slight creaminess,  caramel note, and a slight spicy tinge. I think, perhaps, that it does lack some body that I hope for. It does have a fruity character to it underneath, along with some maltiness. It starts with smoke, and then ends with smoke as well, with a good level of underlying sweetness and some vanilla. There's an interesting note of milk chocolate as well in the midst of all the smoke, and at times the cacao comes forth a bit more and brings in some bite more akin to dark chocolate. In my previous tasting of this with a friend some time ago, I found that this whisky had lots of smoke without the body I desired - but I am not finding it so on this round- It has some decent support for the peat.  It could use a bit more - but this is well done.

Finish: It's not bad on this one! Certainly long, and reasonably deep. Some pepper comes out with the smoke, alongside vanilla and honey, some apple notes and some malt. The oiliness of the whisky is shown here, and there are some notes of mustard as well. It has reasonable body and sweetness, both of which are good in finishes.

It could use a touch more body, I think, around the peat - but I am thoroughly enjoying this. The way that the peat has been blended together, and the way that the complexity is showcased in the peat - it is brilliant. Compass Box certainly produces some exceptional whiskies - and this is one of them.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. A great, broad, and complex peated whisky for a good price.


Review: Spice Tree Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

The first release of The Spice Tree in 2005 utilized French oak staves in American oak barrels to marry characteristics of both types of oak in a single maturation, which the Scotch Whisky Association took legal issue with and forced the discontinuation of the product. Three years after, Compass Box re-released the whisky, this time using toasted French oak barrel heads – however, the aging regimen is quite complicated with three different toasting levels used on the barrel heads for different components before they are all blended together. Primary maturation takes place in first-fill American oak, the secondary maturation takes place in the special custom barrels with the toasted French oak barrel heads. A typical vatting of the malts: 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich. It is interesting to note that this is the exact same base, in the same barrels, as for Oak Cross, which tastes completely different. The secondary maturation certainly changes both of these whiskies.

Initially all the malts are aged in first fill American oak before being blended in different oak casks for a secondary maturation: 25% in a “vanilla toast” hybrid barrel, 22% in a high infrared toast hybrid barrel, 32% in a hybrid “mocha toast” barrel, and 21% in a first fill American oak barrel. The result is phenomenal.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 20 03 12 3 10:57 88

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Complex, interesting, and oaky - with all sorts of things going on. Fascinatingly oily. Fruit – apple, pears, prunes, raisins; caramel, chillis, green cardamom (a bit more reminiscent of the presentation of cardamom in a dessert vs. a curry, if you understand the distinction - i.e. the floral and lighter side of cardamom comes out), dried ginger, malt- both cereal and lightly earthy barley. The oak tells a beautiful story – it is just big enough but doesn’t overpower and is very well integrated. On the palate, particularly, it is so well integrated with the dried fruit. Subtle, and immensely drinkable. Very pleasing finish as well with the raisins, malt, spice, and oak all present in good quantity and balance. Terrific!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. An incredible whisky for the price.


Review: Oak Cross Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

Here is another compass box whisky which is made according to the following scheme, roughly. The whisky is made from 60% Clynelish in a first fill American oak barrel, 20% Dailuaine in a first fill American oak barrel, and 20% Teaninich in a first fill American oak barrel. The whisky is then vatted together, with 40% going into a high vanilla toast hybrid barrel (barrel heads made from new toasted French oak, and bodies of the casks being made from American oak - hence "Oak Cross") and 60% into a first fill American oak barrel.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 20 02 13 3 21:07 88

  • Bottling Date: 2013

A bit more restrained with quite the interesting character. Light and creamy, with vanilla, cantaloupe, unripe pear, cinnamon and clove playing their part in the story. Beautifully thick and syrupy on the mouth, with lots of complexity and the most delicate malt character to it which leads to quite a bit of beauty. Maple, cinnamon, caramel, and different degrees of malt – the cereal character of very grainy porridge and the light earthiness of grain.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review: Great King Street Artist's Blend Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Grain & Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky is one of two standard "Great King Street" whiskies, and in a very different profile than its sister whisky Glasgow Blend. It is presented in great fashion, without colouring or chill filtration. A typical vatting:

  • 46% Girvan Grain whisky (first fill American oak barrel)

  • 29% Clynelish (first fill American oak barrel)

  • 8% Teaninich (sherry butt)

  • 17% blend of Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dailuaine (custom toasted French oak hybrid barrel)

The hybrid barrel is a common use from Compass Box, being made from specialty barrels with different levels of toasting on the outer staves and the barrel heads. More from Compass Box here.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 20 08 12 3 11:04 88

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Lemon peel, vanilla, malt, barley sugar, with a fat, buttery body and still a few candied notes in the mix. Citrus, too, but the bulk of this whisky is full of cream and vanilla. What a mouthfeel! Rich, and tons of vanilla, with aged grain whisky doing absolutely fabulous work in the background. Wow, on the palate - I'm surprised so much came after quite a subdued nose. This is thick stuff too - very viscous in the mouth, with an enduring finish and story. There is a bit of acidity and spice underneath which adds some good complexity as well. Really great stuff, and in Canada this is still clocking in at a great price.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very High. Terrific Scotch whisky for the price (~45$).


Review: Asyla Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Grain & Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

Compass Box is one of my favourite whisky companies out there - terrific blends, great prices, and lots of information as to what went into the blend. Asyla was crafted as an aperitif, and recommended chilled with water in a wine glass with a bit of parmesan – I can vouch of this as a worthwhile aperitif. A typical vatting:

  • 50% grain whisky from Cameron Bridge (First Fill American oak barrel)

  • 5% Glen Elgin (refill cask)

  • 23% Teaninich (First Fill American oak barrel)

  • 22% Linkwood (First Fill American oak barrel)

This whisky was named after the Asyla composition by Thomas Ades (on Youtube here) which John Glaser, the master blender at Compass Box, loves. Asyla, also, would be his desert island dram. It is a lighter dram from Compass Box - my notes below. Also, Compass Box has terrific information on their whiskies - more on Asyla here.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 28 01 14 3 11:07 88

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Old banana, creamy, vanilla, green apple, and light otherwise. Cereal notes, as well, with the smell of a new hamster cage to it. Inoffensive, and quite cereal driven with some hay notes on the palate rounding out with some gentle spice and tannins on the finish. It's not bad - not even tasting young or unbalanced, but it just doesn't have much spirit to it.

Value: Average. A decent whisky and not too expensive (~50$)


Review: Great King Street Glasgow Blend Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

I, like most whisky connoisseurs, love Compass Box - a company focused on premium blended Scotch whisky - both blended malt whiskies (i.e. a mix of single malts) and blended whiskies (a mix of single grain and malt whiskies). They always release terrific information as to the makeup of their blends, and the quality is high across the board. Their products, to boot, are all bottled without colouring or chill-filtration (providing better mouthfeel).

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