Compass Box – The Building of an Empire
The Compass Box empire, like many others throughout history, has been built upon the bedrock of ideas bigger than those its competition. And like any empire keen on expansion and growth, it has smashed boundaries and razed the old infrastructures to the ground. This type of forward-thinking and innovation is the stuff most often met with extreme resistance at first, and often made lore in years to come. Generally a movement such as this is led by an individual of character and charisma. (I hasten to add, he/she is sadly often martyred! Thankfully we live in slightly more…forgiving…times.)
As emperor of this young empire, John Glaser now finds himself lording over legions from the far-flung regions of Scotland. He has taken these small holdings and merged and bent them to his benevolent will. Fortunately, after a few bitter early battles, John’s vision has been met with not only acceptance, but accolade.
Upon the backs and genius of distillers from all corners of Scotland, Glaser has risen with a new force of daring and might. This young empire shows no sign of slowing its forward march and progression through the ages.
In honor…ATW takes a brief survey of some of the breeds that make up the Compass Box empire:
Asyla – 40%
Nose: Oak, and vanilla. Lilac, heather and honey. Orange.
Palate: Silky delivery of vanilla and firm grains. Light fresh fruit.
Finish: It is the woods that linger. …But not overly long
Assessment: Mild and beautifully balanced. Hints of a very mild and aged Laphroaig (?!? I know!). While exceptional and unique, still epitomizes Scotch whisky. Great beginner’s malt. Would make an excellent aperatif dram as well.
Oak Cross – 43%
Nose: Touch of spice. Mild and homey sweetness. Toasted grain. Strong vanilla bean and lavender. Citrus rind.
Palate: Depth of wood notes and oak-infused flavors. A touch of dry tartness.
Finish: Sweet, but still spicy. Dries toward the back.
Assessment: Any day…any time. Nowhere near the best of the bunch, but that only speaks to the quality of the others…not any lack in this expression.
The Spice Tree – 46%
Nose: Wham! This is brilliant! Clove. Spiced cranberry. Caramel. Warm and worn-in leather. Bold and creamy and nearly perfect.
Palate: Hint of malted barley. Fruit skins and toffee. Cinnamon spiced apples.
Finish: Apple skin and sucking on a cinnamon stick.
Assessment: Best of the Compass Box line-up. Primarily from Clynelish, they say. This has more in common with Brora than contemporary expressions of Clynelish. Sexy…sexy…sexy!
The Peat Monster – 46%
Nose: Sharp tangy Islay bog. Deep salty smoke and peat. Iodine and seawater. Malty. Lime and kiwi freshness. Young mashtun notes. Touch of vanilla snaking through. Like smoldering vegetation.
Palate: Smoke, iodine and fruit skins. Rich and oily.
Finish: Lingering smoke, tartness and…yeah…smoke.
Assessment: Seems feisty and young, though apparently all malts within are 10-16 years. A little sharp. Not quite my idea of perfect balance, but great nevertheless and very well-made. An improvement on the Peat Monster of old.
Flaming Heart – 48.9%
Nose: Pungent peat (but not Islay peat at the heart…most certainly from the Ardmore). Tangy. Floral and vegetal. Slight peppery bite. Hint of pear. Coastal and tarry (Caol Ila, anyone?). Slightly bread-like and yeasty. Grains and malt.
Palate: Malty. Smoky. Nutty. Peaty. Delivers briny oakiness.
Finish: Vanilla and dry wood dominate the finish. Yes…with fading smoke.
Assessment: Good, but…I hoped for a wee bit more. Thankfully…I still have a fresh bottle set aside for rainy days.
Hedonism Maximus – 46%
Nose: Rich in sweet toffee grain. Almost rye-like. Sweet bourbon. Fresh orange intensity. Lightly buttered baking. Creamy. Mild nutmeg and cinnamon. Strata of vanilla.
Palate: Bourbon-like delivery. Buttered caramel and oak. Sweet and chewy like crunching down on freshly picked grain.
Finish: Drying and fruity. Subtly…manipulatively…charms its way into staying for a while.
Assessment: Lovely. Nose is exceptional. Palate…quite good. Would have loved to try this side-by-side with the other Hedonism. This is aged grain as it is meant to be presented. Brilliant.
– All notes: Curt