Compass Box Tasting – Jan 27 2010

I’ve said it before…John Glaser is an alchemist.  In 2000 he founded Compass Box, a boutique whisky making company dedicated to craft presentation of beautifully blended whiskies.  Note the distinction…Compass Box does not distill whiskies.  Under Glaser’s direction, they purchase and marry whiskies from other distilleries.  I hesitate to say blend, lest you get the idea that we are speaking to the standard blended fair.  This couldn’t be further from the way Glaser approaches his craft.  Compass Box differs from the big blenders (though Glaser’s lineage does include a tenure with Johnnie Walker) in that Glaser approaches the art from a ‘less is more’ standpoint.  Much more, in fact.  His marriage of casks often revolves around only a couple (or a small handful) of truly exceptional whiskies, as opposed to the dozens in many of the big blends.

Glaser is profoundly passionate about his whisky.  I love that.  He is intense and deliberate.  His knowledge and tastes are unquestionable after having sampled the whiskies he has created.  Though not all were exactly to my taste, they were undoubtedly well-crafted, excellent expressions.  

This tasting event was another Willow Park coup, but this should come as less and less of a surprise, as I have yet to attend an event there I did not enjoy.  As usual, Willow Park’s whisky buyer, David Michiels, was on hand to entertain, warm the crowd and…of course…lead you to your next purchase.  Normally Dave would take you to some of his favorites, but tonight was all about Compass Box.

An enlightening eve it was too.  My ignorance to Compass Box’s lineup was rewarded with wide-eyed wonder at such a unique approach to blending. 

The whiskies laid out for education and enjoyment?

Asyla – Blended whisky.  A smooth, light easy sipper composed of grains and malts.  Pleasant, if a little delicate.  40% abv.

Oak Cross – Blended malt.  Components are all Highland malts and you can tell.  Still fairly light.  Fruity and soft.  43% abv.

The Peat Monster – Blended malt.  Not nearly so monstrous as the name would imply.  Nice flavors but could use a boost.  46% **

Hedonism – Blended Grain Whisky.  Grains between 12 and 25 year old.  Full of character and unique.  Big vanilla and coconut.  Quite exceptional.  43% abv.

Eleuthera – Blended malt.  Sadly retired, due to malt availability issues.  Exceptional.  Malty, smoky, fruity.  Gorgeous long finish.  46%

The Spice Tree – Blended malt.  Best of the night and wonderfully deep.  As the name suggests, full of spice.  46% 

I should also note…all whiskies above are non-chill-filtered and natural color.

If the opportunity presents itself for you to sample the Compass Box line I highly recommend it.  Of course…you could always drop by my place for a wee nip at the Spice Tree…

Great night…great host…great whisky.

One final note…you’ll find reviews for several of these here on ATW.

**Latest bottlings are infinitely peatier with the addition of Laphroaig to round out the Caol Ila and Ardmore.

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